Cauliflowers and Cabbages
17th Jun 1998
Mark Twain I believe once said about the Cauliflower 'it is nothing more than a cabbage with college education' referring no doubt to it's much more palatable flavour than that of the cabbage. For the gardener, and in particular the Showman, the cauliflower is much more difficult to grow to perfection than the cabbage and is reflected as such in both the RHS judging handbook and the NVS one, being given a maximum points value of 20 against the maximum of 15 for Cabbages.
From a dietetic standpoint both the cauliflower and the cabbage can be eaten raw and the floret of the cauliflower in particular are very popular as a snack when dipped in various flavoured sauces. Raw cabbage has a high vitamin content, especially of vitamin C whilst the cooked cabbage is low in fat, medium to low in protein and a good diuretic agent. Because of it's high content of cellulose fibres, it is particularly effective as a roughage in stimulating the intestines.
Cauliflowers have 8% solid residue, 2-3% protein, 1-2% carbohydrates, less than 1% ash and no lipids. The calorific content is 17 to 18 calories per 100grms (3½ ounces). Even after cooking the cauliflower still retains some vitamin C and small amounts of thiame and carotene.
But of course before we eat them we have to grow them and for exhibition purposes I like to have just the one sowing of Cabbage aiming primarily for the Anglesey show during mid August as there are no classes for the cabbage at the Welsh or the National Vegetable Society Championships. The variety that I use is AUGUSTOR and is one I introduced in my seed catalogue some two years ago and many people have had some marvellous results with it in particular Charles Maissey who won with some very fine heads at the Royal Welsh show last year. Mine were planted out during late April in a furrow and have already been earthed up on two occasions.
They also love a feed either in dry format or as a liquid boost and is one vegetable that really likes a high nitrogen content, particularly early on as it"s developing it's large foliage. If you are troubled with cabbage root fly which can devastate a crop of brassicas then mix some Sybol at the recommended dose and pour some into an old washing up liquid bottle. This means that you can then squirt the liquid directly where it is required, around the stem of the plant where it will soak down into the root system. Augustor as the name implies will be ready for showing from mid August but it does hold well in the rows and can be exhibited during September as well.
Timing with Cauliflowers however is much more difficult and many growers are always saying what fabulous heads they would have had only that the matured a week or two before the show. To this point I always remember a comment that Ken Galbraith from Manchester made, Ken is the Secretary of the Manchester and District Association of the NVS and he can really grow some fabulous Cauliflowers and having won for many years at the highest level. Ken always said that Cauliflowers should be awarded a maximum of 25 points not 20, the last 5 points being awarded for having them ready on the day!
To overcome this timing which can depend so much on seasonal changes with a particularly dry hot Summer bringing the crop forward by weeks not days, I have two sowings of six varieties with exactly the same six varieties being sown every time. The first lot were sown on the 10th of May and the other 10 days later on the 20th of May on my return from the Chelsea Flower Show.
The varieties are as follows and are from my own catalogue apart from a new variety from Dobbies called CABRERA F1, the write up in the catalogue states that it's a worthy successor to the popular Elby, that being the case then it must be good as Elby won many shows at national level. This is a variety that can be sown early under glass during January or even directly outdoors during March - May for Summer /Autumn harvesting and looks very promising.
The other varieties are PLANA, LINMONT, LINDON, BEAUTY and LATEMAN, I just hope that from the two sowings that I'll have some to stage from August to September. Owing to a lack of space in my own garden I have always grown my Cauliflowers in a friends field and though this can be very useful as I have plenty of space to plant out some 200 plants, it is never as good as having them at home where you can better look after them. Watering in a field situation can be a nightmare, particularly as they are planted out during June and if we have a particularly hot Summer then I may well not get any heads worthy of showing on the bench.
Once again I feel that I need to remind you that this year there are two judges handbooks being used, the one used being dependant on whether or not the show is judged to RHS rules or NVS rules. There are a number of differences as well in the break down of the points total with the maximum available in both books being the same. For cabbages the 15 points is split up as follows; in the RHS book = Condition including solidity 5, Size and Shape 5, Colour 5, Uniformity 5. In the NVS book it's = Condition 5, Uniformity 3, Solidity 4, Colour 3. The main difference being that the NVS give cabbages no points at all for size with Condition and Solidity being given a total of 9 points.
The Cauliflowers are as follows in the RHS book = Condition including Solidity 5, Colour 5, Size and Shape 5, Uniformity 5. In the NVS book it's = Condition 6, Uniformity 4, Shape 4, Size 3, Colour 3. The main difference here being that Condition Size and Shape is awarded a total of 10 points by the RHS and 13 by the NVS with less points being awarded for Uniformity by the NVS.