CAULIFLOWER | How Does it Grow?

If you could choose one vegetable to serve a king, what would it be? The extravagant French king Louis XIV demanded that cauliflower be served at all his feasts. It had something to do with a girlfriend who liked cauliflower… but maybe he knew that this common member of the cabbage family has a positively royal pedigree – when it comes to health: one cup of cauliflower has more Vitamin C than an orange; it’s high in fiber, which helps digestion; and it’s packed with cancer fighting antioxidants. When we eat cauliflower, we’re actually eating a flower! In fact, we’re eating hundreds of immature flowers that are bonded together into little lumps called curds. China and India throw the most cauliflower, but in the US, it’s California – and that’s where we’ve come to find out: How Does It Grow? We’re here in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, at Lakeside Organic Gardens – one of the country’s largest family-owned organic farms. Lakeside grows many different crops, including five million heads of cauliflower each year. First, they prepare the earth with fertilizer. (Dick): In our business we have a saying: “We farm the soil, and the soil grows the crop.” Because lakeside grows their cauliflower organically, that means they don’t use chemical sprays to kill the bugs that eat the cauliflower plant; instead, they release predators like ladybugs that like to eat the bad insects. (Dick): We grow plants that attract the good bugs. (Nicole): Is that like these white flowers that you see here? (Dick): Yeah, these are Sweet Alyssum. So you’ll see them around the edge of our field. They also use a natural soap spray, since bugs breathe through their skin when the soap covers their body they suffocate. But there’s another secret to growing cauliflower organically: penguin poop. Lakeside is the country’s largest importer of Peruvian Guano – aka seabird excrement. Guano is used as a fertilizer and is super rich in nitrogen because of all the fish those seabirds eat. And nitrogen is key to plant growth – it’s a main ingredient in chlorophyll – the substance that plants make to convert sunlight to energy. When the cauliflower is the size of a tennis ball, farmers take some of the biggest leaves, and tie them over the head. They do this for one reason only: we like our cauliflower white. If the head is exposed to the sun, it turns yellow and even though it tastes exactly the same, we won’t buy it! (Dick): what we throw away in California for cosmetic reasons could end World Hunger… When the cauliflower is 6 to 8 inches in diameter, the harvest begins. Right in the field, the cauliflower is trimmed and wrapped. Before being shipped, it will be cooled down to preserve its freshness. If the cauliflower is harvested too late, the curds begin to pull apart within just two days – that’s when you can really see how the cauliflower is just a big bouquet of flowers waiting to bloom. Cauliflower is delicious. Cut up and roasted in the oven at high heat – the natural sugars caramelize, it gets tender and sweet. But for the love of God, don’t boil it – it’ll turn to mush! And that is no way to treat a vegetable fit for a king

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