Cauliflower Harvest: Learn More About Picking Cauliflower

Harvesting Cauliflower
(Image credit: nanoqfu)

Cauliflower is a popular garden crop. One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is when to cut cauliflower or how to harvest cauliflower.

When is Cauliflower Ready to Pick?

As the head (curd) begins to grow, it will eventually become discolored and bitter tasting from sunlight. To avoid this, cauliflower is often blanched to keep the sun off the head and whiten the cauliflower. Generally, this is done when the head reaches about the size of a tennis ball, or 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm.) in diameter. Simply pull up about three or four large leaves and tie or fasten them loosely around the cauliflower head. Some people cover them with pantyhose too. Since the cauliflower head develops rather quickly in ideal growing conditions, it will usually be ready for harvest within a week or two after the blanching process. It's a good idea to keep an eye on it to determine when to harvest cauliflower and avoid its becoming too mature, which results in grainy cauliflower. You'll want to pick the cauliflower once the head is full but before it has begun to separate, usually at about 6 to 12 inches (15-31 cm.) in diameter is when to cut cauliflower.

How to Harvest Cauliflower

The mature head should be firm, compact, and white. When you're ready to harvest the cauliflower head, cut it from the main stem but leave a few of the outer leaves attached to help protect the head and prolong its overall quality until ready to eat. Be sure to handle the head carefully as it can bruise rather easily.

After the Cauliflower Harvest

Once harvested, it's usually recommended that you soak the head in salt water (2 tbsp to 1 gal) for about 20 to 30 minutes. This will help expel any cabbageworms that may be hiding inside the head. These pests will quickly come out and die so the head will not only be safe to eat but can be stored without worrying about having it feasted on. Cauliflower keeps best when frozen or canned but it will keep for up to a week or so in the refrigerator if wrapped in protective wrap.

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.