Harvesting and Handling
Cauliflowers are selected for size and compactness of the head or curd. Mature curds are at least 15 cm in diameter. Loose or protruding floral parts, creating a ‘ricy’ appearance, are a sign of overmaturity. Cauliflower is packaged after being closely trimmed into single layer cartons of 12 to 24 heads, with 12’s most common.
Cauliflower is primarily marketed with closely trimmed leaves and overwrapped with perforated film. Overwraps should provide sufficient holes per head to allow adequate ventilation, but minimise dehydration. Good quality cauliflowers have a firm and compact head of white to cream white curds surrounded by a crown of well-trimmed, turgid green leaves. Additional quality indices are size, freedom from severe yellowing due to sunlight exposure, freedom from handling defects and decay, and an absence of ‘riciness’.
Gentle handling is essential, since physical damage permits infection by fungi and bacteria. Signs of senescence include yellowing and abscission of the wrapper leaf stalks, together with ‘riciness’ and discolouration of the curd. ‘Riciness’ has been described as loose curds with floral parts protruding.
Cooling and Storage
Cauliflowers benefit from rapid cooling and refrigerated storage, but they have a limited storage life compared with cabbages. Even under optimal conditions (0°C and 95% relative humidity) cauliflowers can be kept for a few weeks only, the main problem being deterioration of the delicate curd tissue.
Storage life is about 7 to 10 days at 5°C, 5 days at 10°C and 3 days at 15°C. Loss of quality during prolonged storage includes wilting, browning and spreading of curds, yellowing of leaves and decay. Cauliflower produces very little ethylene but is sensitive to the effects of ambient ethylene which may cause yellowing of the leaves.
Cauliflower is not chilling sensitive. Heads are susceptible to freezing injury, which appears as water-soaked and greyish curds, if held below -0,8°C.
Controlled atmosphere considerations
The benefits from CA and modified atmosphere are modest. Low O2 in combination with 3% to 4% CO2 may delay leaf yellowing and the onset of curd browning.
Alternaria rot, Bacterial rots, Black rot, Cercosporella spot, Downy mildew, Grey mould rot, Leaf spot, Powdery mildew.