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Cauliflower can be one of the more tricky brassicas to grow in the garden and this is what makes it all the more rewarding when it’s finally ready for harvest. But, you’re probably wondering if you can harvest cauliflower more than once.
Unfortunately, cauliflower is a one-and-done plant meaning that it won’t form a new head after it’s been harvested and, unlike broccoli, it also won’t produce that many side shoots throughout the season.
But don’t let this stop you from enjoying cauliflower! I’m going to go over everything you need to know about harvesting this yummy veggie and what other parts of the plant you can enjoy after you’ve harvested the head.
Does cauliflower regrow once you harvest it?
Although I love growing cauliflower, it’s, unfortunately, a one-and-done plant. After you harvest the head, it will not produce another and will most likely not produce any side shoots either.
That shouldn’t make growing cauliflower any less enticing to you as there are plenty of other crops in the garden that are also only harvestable one time.
And, the main head isn’t the only part of the cauliflower that’s edible. But, I’ll talk about that in a minute.
Broccoli on the other hand, which is in the same family as cauliflower, will almost certainly produce side shoots for you after you harvest the head. We have a whole article on this that you can check out for more info.
When to harvest cauliflower
Cauliflower is ready to harvest when the head is at least 6 inches in diameter. Once your cauliflower head reaches maturity, you’ll want to protect it from the sun. Because the head is white, it’s more susceptible to sunburn.
Having sunburned cauliflower isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does change the plant visually and can make it look less appealing. Sometimes, sunburned cauliflower may also taste a little bitter.
To keep the cauliflower from getting sunburned, wrap the outer leaves up around the head and tie them off with a rubber band. Then, simply harvest the head when you’re ready.
Cauliflower is a cool season crop meaning you can expect it to be ready for harvest either in early summer or in late fall depending on when you planted them.
I usually plant two successions, one in the spring for an early summer harvest and one in late summer for a fall harvest.
How to harvest cauliflower
Harvesting cauliflower is simple and almost identical to how you would harvest other brassicas like broccoli and cabbage.
The first thing you’ll need is a sharp knife or a pair of sharp clippers. This way you can harvest your cauliflower head in one clean cut.
Cut the stem of your cauliflower head to remove it from the rest of the plant. Try to leave about 3 or 4 inches of stem still attached to the plant in the ground.
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Are cauliflower stems and leaves edible?
Yes! Cauliflower leaves and stems are edible! That’s one of the things that makes most of the plants in the Brassica family so great. All parts are edible.
As you harvest your cauliflower heads, also harvest and save any of the good-looking leaves to be used in salads or sauteed into a stir fry.
These greens are so good and can be added to pretty much any dish. The only thing that I don’t add brassicas to is vegetable stock because they can sometimes turn the stock a little too bitter for my liking.
What to do with cauliflower plants at the end of the season
The best thing to do with cauliflower is to remove the plants from the ground and toss them into your compost pile.
Because the heads won’t grow back, they’re not worth keeping around over the winter. A good frost is likely to kill the rest of the plant anyway.
On the off chance that the frost doesn’t kill your plants, you may consider saving seeds from your cauliflower.
Saving seeds can be a great way to ensure food and seed security well into the future. But, cauliflower can be a tricky vegetable to save seeds from and requires some patience.
For starters, if you want to save seeds from cauliflower, then you can’t harvest the head as this is what will produce the flowers and seeds.
Secondly, cauliflower is a biennial meaning that it won’t even produce flowers until its second season. Because of this, saving seeds from cauliflower is mostly just playing the waiting game.
Does cauliflower grow flowers?
If you’re not using your cauliflower to save seeds, then you don’t want it to produce flowers. Once your cauliflower starts to flower the flavor will change and the cauliflower will start to taste bitter.
This flowering is known as bolting which means that the plant is reaching the end of its life and is quickly trying to reproduce before it dies.
Once cauliflower bolts, there’s not much you can do to stop it. The flowers will form on the head of the cauliflower and can’t be picked off to slow down the bolting process due to their small size.
The best way to keep your cauliflower from bolting is to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. You can ensure the roots stay cool by adequately watering. For my cauliflower, a deep watering once or twice a week is sufficient.
If you live in an exceptionally warm region, then you may even consider adding shade cloth above your rows as another way to help keep your plants cooler.
Although cauliflower won’t regrow another head after you harvest it, it’s still absolutely worth growing and you can even eat the leaves and stems if you’re feeling adventurous.
You can harvest your cauliflower when the head is at least 6 inches in diameter. Once your cauliflower head is close to full size, make sure to cover it with its leaves to keep it from getting sunburnt.
You might also try your hand at saving cauliflower seeds to ensure you have a seed supply for next year and to help you become even more self-sufficient.
Check out these must-have gardening products
You don’t need much to start gardening, but some tools and products will make a difference in how comfortable and effective gardening can be for you. Here are my favorites:
- Garden Trowel. A good garden trowel will last you many years. I love how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the metal doesn’t bend and it has a nice grip.
- Trimming Scissors. I use them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer long, and they’re super handy. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are extra nice because they don’t rust as easily.
- Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a quick sweep through the topsoil to get rid of small weeds – no bending required. I love WOLF-Garten’s selection: this dutch hoe coupled with their universal handle.
- Grow Lights. These grow lights from Mars Hydro are super strong, yet dimmable, so they fit every stage of growth. They don’t put out too much heat and are very economical.
- Seedling Trays. There’s an art to choosing the best size for seedling trays so that it holds the perfect amount of water and gives the roots enough room to grow. These germination plugs are perfect when coupled with 1020 bottom trays.
- Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll need to feed your plants from the seedling stage, all the way to fruiting. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a very versatile option. Use it half-strength for young plants and full-strength for established plants.
Browse our list of tools, fertilizers & pesticides, indoor growing products and seed shop recommendations – we hope you find our selection useful and it saves you some time!