Valley Bounty: Cauliflower

Fall is here. “We have definitely turned the page in terms of seasonality,” Dan Kaplan, who manages Brookfield Farm with his wife Karen Romanowski, told me during a recent conversation. Throughout the entire summer, beginning in late May, Brookfield Farm was juggling many tasks at once. Planting, harvesting, irrigating, weeding, and much more all needed to take place simultaneously. But now that we’ve reached fall, the list of chores has shortened dramatically and the mentality has shifted on the farm. “We’ve done a lot of the work,” Kaplan said. “This last piece of the season is a lot of lifting but it’s not a lot of mental work. It’s not hard to figure out what you’re supposed to do … you’re just going out and picking huge loads of food.”

Kaplan pointed out that this autumn feels very different than last year. During the 2018 season, torrential rains damaged many crops on Brookfield Farm and farms throughout the Valley. “In a year like last year, it’s really depressing because all your crops are getting killed and you have nothing to sell and people are disappointed,” Kaplan said. But he explained that the weather cooperated wonderfully during 2019. “Ever since the middle of May it’s been one of the easiest seasons we’ve ever had. So many great crops. Really incredible weather. So a fall like this, when it’s crisp and the leaves are changing and you’re just going out there and harvesting amazing food from every field, it’s pretty satisfying.”

Kaplan told me that cauliflower is one crop that is having a great year compared to the terrible 2018 season. Cauliflower is very susceptible to too much moisture and the wet 2018 summer decimated Brookfield’s entire planting. But this year, Kaplan said, the cauliflower plants are looking big and healthy.

In the Valley, cauliflower season runs from the end of September through October. During that time, Kaplan and his crew will be keeping a close eye on their cauliflower plantings to ensure they catch the right moment to harvest. “Cauliflower grows big leaves on the outside with some interior leaves that are upright. During its last stage of growth, those interior leaves turn inward,” Kaplan explained. “Then one day you get out there and those leaves have parted and there’s a white head where they used to be. It happens right overnight.” Once the cauliflower head is revealed, a stage Kaplan calls ‘half peaking,’ it’s essential to move quickly. “If the cauliflower hits the sunlight for very long, for a day, it will turn yellow and won’t be marketable. We want to make sure we pick it before it’s been completely exposed,” Kaplan said.

Last year’s challenging cauliflower season only makes it that much more exciting that we’ve entered the window when this delicious crop is available locally. On Brookfield Farm’s website, they list a tasty recipe for Mediterranean Roasted Cauliflower and Tomatoes. Bake chopped cauliflower along with cherry tomatoes, minced garlic, and olive oil at 450F for 10-13 minutes. After baking, mix the roasted vegetables with black olives, chopped oregano, lemon balm, and lemon juice. Serve warm or cold.

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)