I can’t grow cauliflowers. Believe me, I’ve tried. I tried germinating them from seed first, which turned out to be a fool’s errand, so troublesome are they to rear when young. I’ve tried buying plug plants – surely an easy option. But they sulked in their newly fed soil, like grumpy teenagers and stubbornly refused to grow so much as a millimetre. In the end they succumbed, I think willingly, to slugs and died.
Once I got as far as a plant actually producing a flowering head of snowy white potential. But then a brief northerly wind turned my single cauliflower into a brown, mushy mess and blew away all hope with it.
Oh yes, my catalogue of cauliflower catastrophe makes for a sorry tale. And that’s why it always used to annoy me that they were once so overlooked. They are frustratingly difficult to grow and there were all these farmers somehow managing to grow a whole field of them against all the odds only to have them ignored by shoppers, un-persuaded even by the absurdly low prices.
Of course, that’s all changed now. The cauliflower is the darling of the food world – riced, curried, charred, roasted, frittered… not to mention the achingly millennial ‘steak’. If I were a cauliflower (yes, I do ponder such things), I imagine it would be easy to be cynical about my meteoric rise to veg hero status – I haven’t changed one bit, it’s just that someone fashionable decided I was suddenly all interesting because I was low-carb.
But that would be to miss the point. The point is not that cauliflower was once unjustly ignored. The point is that it is finally being recognised for the wonderful, delicious, versatile, sustainable, local harvest that it is.
And I (I’m me now, not a cauliflower) for one am delighted. Finally, the good cauliflower farmers of Great Britain are getting the recognition they deserve for coaxing these little divas into adulthood, and finally, we are alive to the almost limitless potential for veg-filled suppers provided by this most delicious of harvests.
Cauliflowers are in season now. (In fact, if you can grow them, they can be made to harvest pretty much all year round.) And they provide a much needed British veg option when the winter cabbage and kale gets a bit repetitive. So, if you feel like cooking cauliflower tonight, and you should, try my Jewelled Saffron Cauliflower recipe which I wrote for the Feed Your Happy campaign or my Roast Cauliflower with Pine Nut, Raisins and Capers recipe. Nigel Slater has a lovely cauli’ and horseradish recipe too. And as you tuck in, raise a toast to the cauliflower growers and their considerable skill in managing to make a cauliflower.