This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
This curious vegetable (Brassica oleracea botrytis caulifiora), deveioped from the deformed inflorescence of some variety of the Cabbage or Kale was known to the Greeks and Romans, but was not introduced into thi country till the seventeenth century. So rapid, however, was the extension and perfection of the culture here that, by the French Revolution, there was a large export of Cauliflowers from this country to Holland.
It is only from countries where their more southern position give them an earlier spring that any importations to this country come. The Cauliflower must be distinguished by the growe from the Broccoli, which is a near relation an< bears a close resemblance to it, but in flavour is less delicate, and in constitution is hardier and more robust.
The culture for Cauliflowers com mences in August, when towards the end of the month the first sowings of Early London can be made. Great care must be taken that the plant do not grow too gross in the autumn. If the show any tendency to do this, the larger one must be drawn and pricked out. During October all the plants that are required for the crop must be put under protection. Many people prick the best plants into thumb pots and place them under lights; some prick the plants into the soil and cover them with lights. An old plan was to pried the plants into beds 4 ft. 6 in. wide, and cover them with an arch of trellis work, over which mats were thrown at night and during severe weather This practice seems to have gone quite out; perhaps the cheapening of the price of glass and of the production of frames for lights has had much to do with its abandonment. When cloches or bell glasses are used the Cauliflower is the first crop put under them.
In January, on well-manured and deep-trenched ground, the stronger plants selected from those in the pots are put out. The method is to plan four with a trowel in a square inside a circle described by the circumference of the base of the cloche (fig. 469). A space sufficient to stand the cloch when taken off the plants is left between the clumps of four, and the row are planted 4 ft. apart. The cloches are kept on continuously during the early weeks of spring. Little giving of air is required, as plenty gets in as a rule, round the edges of the cloches through unevennesses in the soil. If any is required it can be given by tilting the cloche with a piece of notched stick.
CAULIFLOWERS AND CABBAGES FOR COVENT GARDEN MARKET.
SORTING CAULIFLOWERS INTO "FIRSTS" AND "SECONDS".
Photos.W. J. Vasey.
When the plants get big enough to fill up the cloche, in April, the glass is taken off, the four plants are pressed outwards, and a spadeful of earth put into the middle to keep them apart. As soon as they have got a little upright again they are moulded up around the outsides with the spade. Just before this process of moulding up, a little stimulant, such as sulphate of ammonia or nitrate of soda, may be sprinkled around the roots.
The plants under the cloches come into cutting during the beginning of June, and usually command good prices for the best, commencing at 4s. per dozen and getting down to 2s. Great care has to be taken to keep the "flowers" clean and white and close, discoloured or "buzzly" ones being of little value. Those plants that are not put out under the cloches remain in the frames till the middle of March, when they are transplanted to the open ground, 2 ft. 6 in. by 2 ft. apart.
As soon as they are half grown they are the better for being earthed up with the earthing plough. They will come into cutting about Midsummer Day, and will not be long about it when they start. The difficulty will be, especially in hot weather, to keep pace with the rapidity with which they will "turn in". In order to keep the heads from discolouring, the leaves are broken over them before they are completely out.
Many an early morning must be given to the Cauliflower cutting during the fortnight that they are turning in, if they are to be got to market in their perfection. The method of preparing for market is to "dock" the long leaves with a docking knife to within 2 in. of the head, to grade into three or four grades, and then dip in clean water and pack, using the cutoff leaves, after being washed, as packing.
The price varies according to the season. No one seems to know what are the causes that rule it. Some seasons they sell well nearly all through, and at others they are low in price and a dragging trade from almost the commencement. Some people say the cheapness or otherwise of the Pea crop affects the Cauliflower market.
Apparently there must be on the one hand a number of growers who chop about from crop to crop, at one season going in for Cauliflowers and glutting the market, then leaving them and giving some other crop the benefit of their attentions; on the other hand, there must be a section of the public who one season must have Cauliflowers and another will not have them. The price of "best" ranges from 2s. to 10d. per dozen. Seconds from 1s. to 6d. per dozen. For thirds, what you can get. Other varieties of the Cauliflower to continue the season after Early London is finished are the Maltese and the Hardy Paris (Dur de Paris) for summer, and Veitch's Autumn Giant for early autumn work.
A sowing of one of the first two can be made under lights in September, the other sowings to be made under glass in January and February. The seed bed for the Autumn Giant is made in March. The Maltese and Hardy Paris can only be grown successfully where there are means of irrigation. The heads will not come clean and white during July unless the land in which the plants are growing is kept regularly watered. [W. G. L].