For me, there’s not much that can rival a good cauliflower cheese. A healthy vegetable, dripping with a sauce so calorific it could power your street lights: what’s not to like?
So this year, I decided to have a go at growing some. Back in March, a tray of ‘Organic Goodman’ was sowed, and the seedlings appeared in no time at all. Out into the big wide garden they went, and I had a little bit of a smug moment as I surveyed my brassica patch. Oh yes indeedy, Brussels, purple sprouting broccolli, not one but three types of cabbage, and the piece de resistance… a row of caulis. I chucked in some fish and bone meal whilst planting, and was careful to firm them all in well: apparently brassicas don’t like to be blown about too much. It makes them insecure and upset.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the patch on my regular slug and caterpillar hunt, when my attention was drawn to the cauliflowers. Blow me down… they were only producing white heads. Amazed that I had some vegetables actually behaving and doing what it said in the book, I investigated further to see how best to tend to them.
Out came the gardening book, and I read to keep the heads white, they shouldn’t be exposed to sunlight. I dutifully pulled up all the leaves to the top of the crown and secured them with string. Quite excited now, I looked forward to the day when the family asked eagerly, “What’s for dinner?” and I could nod sagely towards the garden, answering, “Cauliflower. Not cabbage”.
Leaving the trussed up caulis to do their stuff, I left them well alone. Imagine my surprise when I gently peeled back a couple of the leaves for a sneak peek last week.
Either something was eating them, or they had some sort of disease. Either way, they weren’t the firm, white heads I was anticipating. They were moth-bitten and scrawny; some no more than wizened black stumps – and no amount of cheese sauce was going to magic them into a tasty side dish. Disappointed, I rootled round on the t’interweb, but drew a blank. Plenty of guesswork going on, but no definitive answer – I’m still none the wiser as to what killed them. The Mystery of the Cadaverous Cauli: that’s one in the eye for the Famous Five!
There was nothing for it – the whole row had to go. Not wanting to risk putting something disease-ridden in the compost bin, I gave them a decent send off in the household rubbish. I can’t bring myself to tell the family just yet…