Cauliflower Curd Problems – Reasons For Loose Heads On Cauliflower

Cauliflower Curd Problems – Reasons For Loose Heads On Cauliflower

By: Amy Grant

Cauliflower, a member of the Brassicaceae family, is a cool season vegetable that is more difficult to grow than its Brassicacea brethren. As such, it is susceptible to a number of cauliflower curd problems, one of which is loose heads on cauliflower.

Why is My Cauliflower Curd Loose?

Cauliflower is a bit picky regarding its environmental conditions. For optimal results when growing cauliflower, it is best started from transplants for both spring and fall crops. Cauliflower is far more sensitive to cold temperatures than its cabbage family counterparts, so it is imperative to only transplant two to three weeks after the last frost date for your area. Cauliflower needs to be started early enough so that it matures before the heat of summer, yet not so early that cold can potentially damage it.

Any inconsistencies in the cauliflower’s environment, such as extreme cold, heat, or drought, can result in malformation of the head, or curd, of the vegetable.

To specifically answer the question of why you have loose heads on your cauliflower, hot weather is most likely to blame. Cauliflower does not enjoy big fluxes in the thermometer; it prefers cooler temps. Be sure to plant cauliflower early enough to avoid this cauliflower curd problem.

Also, give cauliflower plants ample water and room enough between plants for vigorous growth. Consistent and plentiful irrigation is essential to prevent loose cauliflower heads.

Excessive nitrogen may also cause loose heads in not only cauliflower, but broccoli as well. The curd is still edible, just not as attractive.

Proper Care to Prevent Cauliflower Curd Problems

As mentioned, cauliflower should be planted when the weather is cool but after any potential frost. Seeds should be germinated in temps from 45-85 degrees F. (7-29 C.) and will germinate in five to 10 days. Start indoors and transplant in early spring or direct sow midsummer for a fall harvest.

Space plants 18 x 24 inches (46 x 61 cm.) or 18 x 36 inches (46 x 91 cm.) in moist, well-draining soil with a high organic content. It’s a good idea to side dress cauliflower with a nitrogen rich fertilizer when the plants are half grown and maintain a consistent amount of irrigation.

Some varieties of cauliflower need to be blanched; blanching entails tying the outer leaves around the head to protect it from sunburn. This process keeps sunlight from stimulating the production of green chlorophyll in the head. A few varieties have a natural tendency to curl leaves around the head and, therefore, do not need to be blanched. Blanch cauliflower when it is dry to prevent disease. Once blanched, the mature head should be ready for harvest seven to 12 days later.

Loose heads in cauliflower, as well as a number of other problems, are caused by stress during the growing process. Baby your cauliflower plants and prevent any huge changes in temperature or moisture.

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Read more about Cauliflower

All About Cauliflower

A vegetable that consists of undeveloped white florets attached to a single stem that form a compact, cabbage-like head, called a curd. The curd is generally 6 to 7 inches in diameter. The white head is surrounded by long green leaves that are attached to the stem. These leaves protect the cauliflower from the sunlight, preventing chlorophyll from developing in the cauliflower. Because the head is protected by the leaves, the head stays white. The older varieties of cauliflower had to have the leaves tied up around the curd to protect it but now varieties have been developed where the leaves grow up and around the curd to protect it without tying. Cauliflower is closely related to broccoli but has a denser, more compact head, and it is most often white. It has a creamy, sweet, slightly nutty flavor and even though the florets are the most common part of the cauliflower that is eaten, the stem and leaves are also edible.

The leaf, stalk and florets can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw, it is eaten on its own accompanied by a dip or cut up and added to salads. When cooked, it can be eaten as a side dish, alone or topped with a sauce, such as au gratin, hollandaise, or Mornay. It is also often added to other dishes, such as stir fries, pasta, quiches, omelets, soups, and stews. Cauliflower can be interchanged for broccoli in most recipes.

Cauliflower is available year-round. Peak seasons are generally in the spring and fall, depending on the climate in that region.

When selecting, look for thick, compact, heads of creamy white florets. The head should be heavy for its size and the leaves surrounding it should be bright green and not be showing signs of wilting. Avoid cauliflower that is blemished or whose florets have started to turn brown, which is a sign that the head is getting old. Check the bottom of the head, if it is soft, it is no longer fresh. If the the florets have started to flower they are overripe. Keep in mind that the size of the cauliflower head is no sign of quality.

Cauliflower should be left unwashed when storing. Store in the refrigerator, with stem side down, in an open plastic bag or use a perforated plastic bag. This will avoid excess moisture, which causes the cauliflower to deteriorate faster. Store for 5 to 7 days. If cauliflower is purchased as precut florets it will lose its freshness much faster. Store precut florets for up to 2 days. Cooked cauliflower should only be stored for 2 or 3 days in the refrigerator. Cauliflower can be blanched and then frozen and kept in the freezer for up to a year.

Most generally referred to as broccoli. This is the most popular and most commonly found broccoli. It consists of dark green clusters of buds, known as florets, which grow on branching arms that connect to a thick leafy stalk. It is also referred to as Calabrese.

Purple Cauliflower

This variety of cauliflower has a purple colored curd rather than white as on regular cauliflower. It cooks faster than white cauliflower and has a little milder taste. When cooked, its color changes from purple to green. Purple cauliflower can be substituted for white in most recipes.

An orange colored cauliflower that is a new variety that became available in some supermarkets and farmers' markets in the fall of 2003. It is very similar to regular white cauliflower in taste and appearance except it is bright orange in color. The first variety of orange cauliflower, which was smaller and not as flavorful, was discovered in Canada in 1970 but it took decades of crossbreeding to finally develop the variety that is now available. Because of its high content of beta-carotene, orange cauliflower's vitamin A content is approximately 25 times higher than white cauliflower. Its color and nutritional value are two characteristics that will make this a poplular vegetable choice.

A vegetable that is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Its appearance is the same as cauliflower except it is light, bright green in color. It has a slightly sweeter taste than regular cauliflower when eaten raw and when cooked, its taste is similar to broccoli. It can be prepared, cooked, and served in the same way you would regular cauliflower.

Cauliflower should not be washed until it is going to be cut up and used. After the cauliflower has been cut up as shown below, soak it in salt water or vinegar water to help force any insects out that are lodged within the florets.

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower head.
Remove the stalk from the head by cutting around it with a sharp knife. When the stalk is removed, the core with the florets attached will be remaining.
Begin to remove the florets by cutting each cluster from the core, leaving a little of the stem with each cluster.
If florets are larger than desired, they can be cut down further by cutting each cluster into smaller uniform size pieces. Finish cutting the remainder of the head in the same manner.

Cauliflower can be cooked using several methods. Some common methods are steaming, boiling, sautéing, stir frying, and microwaving. Cauliflower should be cooked until they are tender-crisp. If it is cooked too long, the florets will fall apart and become mushy.

Add enough water to the pot so that it is below the bottom of the steamer basket when it is placed in the pot. Bring the water to a full boil using a high heat.

Place cauliflower pieces in the steamer basket. Place the basket in the pot over the boiling water, making sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the florets. If steaming a whole head, cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Check for doneness throughout cooking time by piercing with a fork or the tip of a knife. Cook only until pieces are tender-crisp.

Remove from steamer and prepare cauliflower for serving.

To speed up cooking time, make an "X" in the core of the cauliflower approximately 1/2 inch deep.

Add 3 quarts of salted water to a saucepan and bring water to a boil.

Add whole head, core side down, or floret pieces to the boiling water.

Boil gently, covered or uncovered. Cook whole head for 20 to 25 minutes and floret pieces for 5 to 10 minutes.

Check for doneness throughout cooking time by piercing with a fork or the tip of a knife. Cook only until pieces are tender-crisp.

When cauliflower is done, a whole head should be placed on a plate and allowed to sit for a few minutes for the water to drain before preparing to serve. Florets can be drained by placing in a strainer.

  1. Place cauliflower florets in a microwave safe dish large enough so the florets are in one heaping layer. If cooking the head whole, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in a microwave safe dish.
  2. Sprinkle three tablespoons of water over the florets, cover and microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes. Let stand for 1 or 2 minutes.
  3. When cooking whole head of cauliflower, microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes, turn head over and continue to cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Check for doneness throughout cooking time and cook only until pieces are tender-crisp.
  5. Drain excess moisture and prepare to serve.

  1. Cut cauliflower into small to medium size pieces and steam until they are just beginning to get tender. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
  2. Heat oil to 375°F.
  3. Using a batter mix, coat the cauliflower and then carefully place it in the hot oil. Fry until the batter turns golden brown.
  4. Remove with a slotted spoon or if using a basket, lift out with the basket and let oil drain.
  5. Place cauliflower on a plate or cookie sheet lined with paper towels so oil can drain off.
  6. Serve with favorite dips.

When sautéing or stir-frying, it is a good idea to parboil the cauliflower first so it is partially cooked ahead of time. This will allow the cauliflower to be cooked to the proper doneness when sautéed or stir-fried with other ingredients that are faster cooking.

The same method is used when parboiling or blanching vegetables. The difference between them is the length of boiling time. When blanching, the vegetables are boiled for a very short time, generally ranging from 1 to 3 minutes depending on the vegetable. When parboiling, the vegetables are cooked until they are about half done. Parboiling time is generally 1/2 or less of the normally cooking time.

Adding milk to the water will help the cauliflower keep its white color and will sweeten the flavor of the cauliflower.

Bring water to a boil and add the cauliflower pieces. Allow the water to return to a boil and gently boil for 3 to 5 minutes.

When parboiled to desired doneness, remove the cauliflower from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop the cooking action.

After parboiling, the cauliflower is ready to be sautéed, added to a stir-fry or cooked with other vegetables or ingredients.

Cauliflower contains chemicals that give off an unpleasant odor when it is cooked. The longer it is cooked the stronger the smell becomes. Cooking the cauliflower quickly and only to a tender-crisp state will help minimize the odor and will also minimize the nutrient lose that occurs from overcooking.


  • 1 History
  • 2 Etymology
  • 3 Horticulture
    • 3.1 Climate
    • 3.2 Seeding and transplanting
    • 3.3 Disorders, pests, and diseases
    • 3.4 Harvesting
    • 3.5 Pollination
  • 4 Classification and identification
    • 4.1 Varieties
    • 4.2 Colours
  • 5 Production
  • 6 Nutrition
    • 6.1 Phytochemicals
  • 7 Cuisine
  • 8 Fractal dimension
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

In the 1st century AD, Pliny included what he called cyma among his descriptions of cultivated plants in Natural History: "Ex omnibus brassicae generibus suavissima est cyma," [3] ("Of all the varieties of cabbage the most pleasant-tasted is cyma"). [4] Pliny's descriptions likely refer to the flowering heads of an earlier cultivated variety of Brassica oleracea, but comes close to describing modern cauliflower. [5] In the Middle Ages early forms of cauliflower were associated with the island of Cyprus, with the 12th- and 13th-century Arab botanists Ibn al-'Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar claiming its origin to be Cyprus. [6] [7] This association continued into Western Europe, where cauliflowers were sometimes known as Cyprus colewort, and there was extensive trade in western Europe in cauliflower seeds from Cyprus, under the French Lusignan rulers of the island, until well into the 16th century. [8]

François Pierre La Varenne employed chouxfleurs in Le cuisinier françois. [9] They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", [10] but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV. [11] It was introduced to India in 1822 by the British. [12]

The word "cauliflower" derives from the Italian cavolfiore, meaning "cabbage flower". [13] The ultimate origin of the name is from the Latin words caulis (cabbage) and flōs (flower). [14]

Cauliflower is relatively difficult to grow compared to cabbage, with common problems such as an underdeveloped head and poor curd quality. [2]

Climate Edit

Because weather is a limiting factor for producing cauliflower, the plant grows best in moderate daytime temperatures 21–29 °C (70–85 °F), with plentiful sun, and moist soil conditions high in organic matter and sandy soils. [1] The earliest maturity possible for cauliflower is 7 to 12 weeks from transplanting. [2] In the northern hemisphere, fall season plantings in July may enable harvesting before autumn frost. [1]

Long periods of sun exposure in hot summer weather may cause cauliflower heads to discolor with a red-purple hue. [1]

Seeding and transplanting Edit

Transplantable cauliflowers can be produced in containers as flats, hotbeds, or in the field. In soil that is loose, well-drained and fertile, field seedlings are shallow-planted 1 cm ( 1 ⁄2 in) and thinned by ample space – about 12 plants per 30 cm (1 ft). [1] Ideal growing temperatures are about 18 °C (65 °F) when seedlings are 25 to 35 days old. [1] Applications of fertilizer to developing seedlings begin when leaves appear, usually with a starter solution weekly.

Transplanting to the field normally begins late spring and may continue until mid-summer. Row spacing is about 38–46 cm (15–18 in). Rapid vegetative growth after transplanting may benefit from such procedures as avoiding spring frosts, using starter solutions high in phosphorus, irrigating weekly, and applying fertilizer. [1]

Disorders, pests, and diseases Edit

The most important disorders affecting cauliflower quality are a hollow stem, stunted head growth or buttoning, ricing, browning and leaf-tip burn. [1] Among major pests affecting cauliflower are aphids, root maggots, cutworms, moths, and flea beetles. [2] The plant is susceptible to black rot, black leg, club root, black leaf spot, and downy mildew. [1]

Harvesting Edit

When cauliflower is mature, heads appear as clear white, compact, and 15–20 cm (6–8 in) in diameter, and should be cooled shortly after harvest. [1] Forced air cooling to remove heat from the field during hot weather may be needed for optimal preservation. Short-term storage is possible using cool, high-humidity storage conditions. [1]

Pollination Edit

Many species of blowflies, including Calliphora vomitoria, are known pollinators of cauliflower. [15]

There are four major groups of cauliflower. [16]

  1. Italian: This specimen is diverse in appearance, biennial and annual in type. This group also includes white, Romanesco, various brown, green, purple, and yellow cultivars. This type is the ancestral form from which the others were derived.
  2. Northern European annuals: Used in Europe and North America for summer and fall harvest, it was developed in Germany in the 18th century and includes the old cultivars Erfurt and Snowball.
  3. Northwest European biennial: Used in Europe for winter and early spring harvest, this was developed in France in the 19th century and includes the old cultivars Angers and Roscoff.
  4. Asian: A tropical cauliflower used in China and India, it was developed in India during the 19th century from the now-abandoned Cornish type [17] and includes old varieties Early Benaras and Early Patna.

Varieties Edit

There are hundreds of historic and current commercial varieties used around the world. A comprehensive list of about 80 North American varieties is maintained at North Carolina State University. [18]

Reader Comments

Eat it all !!

Submitted by Dan on January 16, 2021 - 12:51am

I just grew my first patch of 8 heads of organic cauliflower. They came out great and all I did was water daily and feed once a month. Big beautiful snowwhite heads about 4 pounds each. And they are delicious! Almost better raw than cooked.
I know they only produce a single flower, but after harvesting them, I cut and sauteed some of the leaves. and they were delicious, too!! Kinda like a mix of chard and kale. They were still firm and not mushy like sauteed spinach. I will try some of the stalks, too.
Just thought I'd share that if you grow it, then you can eat everything. 0 waste.

Cauliflower plants

Submitted by Karen Sapper on December 18, 2020 - 12:32pm

I didn't pull up my plants after harvest this year so I could feed the foliage to my chickens. I was so surprised when the plan started to grow again and now has beautiful heads of cauliflower ready to harvest. My brussel sprouts are doing the same thing. Is this a practice I can continue? Will the plants continue to produce like this each year?


Submitted by The Editors on January 18, 2021 - 3:45pm

Cauliflower is an annual so that confuses us! However, Brussel sprouts are a biennial, which means their natural grow cycle is two years along! So if you live in an area where it doesn’t get too cold, they’ll keep producing. After their second year’s fall harvest, they will flower and set seed. At that point, you could harvest the seed for future plantings!


Submitted by Deborah on September 7, 2020 - 12:42am

Can a cauliflower (and Brussels Sprouts) be grown in a 5-gallon bucket? Do they have deep roots?

Blanching and sevin

Submitted by amy on August 18, 2020 - 1:07pm

After all attempts to kill the cabbage worm, I chose to apply Sevin to save my crop. My question is can I now blanch if the Sevin is on the plant or should I wait?

Sevin on cauliflower

Submitted by The Editors on August 19, 2020 - 2:39pm

Apparently Sevin lingers (“is persistent” seems to be the professional way to put it) on plants for 3 to 4 days befor harvesting. Blanching it should be fine. Next time, you could try row covers.

Cauliflower plants

Submitted by Melinda Sherman on June 24, 2020 - 2:20pm

Once it's harvested, will it grow back out like broccli?

More than one cauliflower head?

Submitted by The Editors on June 25, 2020 - 3:30pm

No. Each plant produces one head.


Submitted by gary Killmer on June 23, 2019 - 7:59pm

just harvested my first started from a start plant that I bought turned out very good thanks for the thought about digging out the root

Just harvested!

Submitted by The Editors on June 25, 2020 - 3:32pm

Thank YOU for sharing—and congratulations!

Your Website

Submitted by Warren Grosch on May 14, 2019 - 3:47pm

Finally. After many-a-searches, a website that's comprehensive as it is invaluable.
My home garden will now be thriving.
Thanks Folks.

Your comment

Submitted by The Editors on June 25, 2020 - 3:33pm

Our pleasure, Warren! Have fun and happy harvest!

What are the utilities

Submitted by ainah ampuan on April 12, 2019 - 10:58pm

what are the utilities commonly used in cauliflower production?

No cauli heads at all.

Submitted by Amber Xuereb on October 12, 2018 - 4:10am

It's happening again. The leaves are growing like crazy and not a whisper of a cauliflower head to show.

Cauliflower popping up through soil and grass.

Submitted by Helen F. on August 8, 2018 - 4:52pm

Ok so near our compost box, shaded by a pine tree and in the sun at probably an ideal combo. are hard orange discs with thick roots. Tried with a hand spade to dig out and discovered these hardy knobs kept going deeper and connecting to a network of roots. Smelled tubuler and looked like cauliflower. Yes- orange cauliflower. Thing is it may have started without us knowing from pieces thrown to squirrels or simply from compost bin. My mother happened to pile used loamy soil, mulch, leaves, the same area. It just coincidently happens to be an ideal environment for it! Thing is we never tilled or prepared area it is actually part of grass covered lawn with muddier soil near fence! We live in the Niagara green belt region for anyone wondering. kudos to all growing cauliflower, we do not actually have edible crowns, but neat right?

My cauliflower has 3 heads on 1 plant

Submitted by Ian on May 28, 2018 - 7:23pm

My cauliflower has just produce 2 side lteral heads to the main head on the plant. They are all growing well but is this normal as everything i read says it should only have a single head?

Multi-headed cauliflower

Submitted by The Editors on May 31, 2018 - 9:30am

Yes, a single head is ideal. Sometimes secondary heads follow the main one. But cauliflower is one of the most tempermental plants in the garden. Stress, such as too much heat or cold (which can prevent a head from forming) to poor soil/nutrition to lack of water to insects can inhibit successful growth. See above about this.

Before you do anything, be sure that these are in fact lateral heads, separate from the main one be sure they are not small curds that would eventually be part of the main head if left to mature. If they indeed are separate “new” heads, we are inclined to suggest that you could remove/cut off the side shoots to enable the main head to develop fully. Realize that this might introduce stress that would affect the entire plant. Or you could leave it alone and harvest a few smaller heads (those being the main and the laterals, later).

Harvested plants

Submitted by SteveM on December 3, 2017 - 6:20pm

Have just harvested my first plant of the season. A nice 5+ lb head. I have pretty good soil here because i find it easy to grow and purely organic. I have several more heads approaching the size of this one. I also found the answer that I can only get one harvest from each plant. The ones I have growing were started from seed. Too bad I can't include a photo. All are white and no blanching was necessary


Submitted by Leslie on August 1, 2017 - 6:55pm

I'm on my second attempt at growing cauliflower and all is going well (now I've got the caterpillars under control), last time I only harvested one, but I never knew to blanch, is this only for visual satisfaction or is there more to it?

Blanching Cauliflower

Submitted by The Editors on August 3, 2017 - 4:51pm

When the “head” of the cauliflower is left exposed to the sun, it may become discolored due to the development of chlorophyll in the curd. The taste is often sub-par, too. To get the best-looking and best-tasting cauliflower, blanching is recommended.

Gain knowlege

Submitted by Arun kumar on September 30, 2016 - 2:09am

Felt helpful thnx

Submitted by Kumar on September 19, 2016 - 8:48am


Submitted by Milvia on August 9, 2016 - 8:53pm

Iam looking for the coliflower leaf
For a cancer treatment
Would you help me?

Growing cauliflowers

Submitted by sookdeal soobanand on May 20, 2016 - 11:31pm

Diseases and treatment in cauliflowers in tropical regions

Growing cauliflower

Submitted by sookdeal soobanand on May 20, 2016 - 11:27pm

suggests name of pesticides usually used un cauliflower


Submitted by Abbas on February 13, 2016 - 10:46am

if we apply high dose of potassium to cauliflower, the curd diameter is increase or not?

Potassium & cauliflower

Submitted by The Editors on February 17, 2016 - 10:46am

Good question, not an easy answer. We have no information that indicates a larger curd/head however, potassium—and nitrogen and phosphorus—are important nutrients for the plant’s success. We suggest that you click here for more details (this page speaks to soil quality and more that may relate specifically to your conditions, even if you are not in Minnesota):

I have harvested a couple of

Submitted by Batty on July 8, 2015 - 12:26am

I have harvested a couple of my cauliflower heads so far and all is going great with them. Though I was wondering and am a little confused as what I am to do with the plant after I have cut off the cauliflower head? If I pull the plant will the other plants do better?

What to do AFTER harvesting

Submitted by Beverly Sanders on April 3, 2018 - 2:00pm

Please will someone answer us! I too want to know what to do with the remaining plant after you have harvested the cauliflower. Do you throw it away, do you cut it down to the dirt, do you pull the roots up also? What do we do?

My cauliflower has a fuzzy

Submitted by Stacy1122 on June 26, 2015 - 9:27am

My cauliflower has a fuzzy look and feel is this now bad? And what can I do to prevent the other heads from getting this?

Watch the video: Huge Monster Cauliflower with Dutch Bucket Hydroponics