Cauliflower cheese AGAIN, mum? 500,000 winter vegetables that flowered too late for Xmas are finally harvested after ‘worst growing conditions in years’ – but Tesco buys the lot to sell for 49p instead of 79p
Half a million cut-price cauliflowers are set to hit supermarket shelves in the next two weeks – because of harvesting delays.
The humble white vegetable – commonly served doused in cheese – is usually a family favourite on Christmas dinner tables.
But farmers say their cauliflower crops, which are usually harvested at the end of October, have only recently flowered.
Growers have blamed the late harvest on a lack of cold nights in Autumn, saying they faced ‘some of the worst growing conditions for many years’.
Retailers, faced with a Christmas cauliflower shortage, were forced to ship in the vegetable from Europe in a bid to meet the festive demand.
But consumers are now set to benefit, with supermarket Tesco slashing the price of the vegetable in a bid to clear the post-Christmas surplus.
It means savvy shoppers will be able to snap up cauliflowers for 30p cheaper than normal over the next fortnight.
Hundreds of thousands of cut-price cauliflowers are set to hit supermarket shelves because of harvesting delays
But farmers say their cauliflower crops, which are usually harvested at the end of October, have only recently flowered
Top Trumps: The humble cauliflower
Family: Brassica – also known as the mustard family
Originally grown: In Asia and around the Mediterranean Sea. In Western Europe it became popularly associated with Cyprus in the 12th century and seeds were apparently shipped from there.
Typically sown: Anytime from February to May but typically in April
Harvested: Typically around October to November in the UK
Where are most grown?: China is the world’s leading producer of cauliflower.
The good stuff: Cauliflower is a good source of vitamin C
Best known UK recipe: Cauliflower cheese
Tesco, who have vowed to help manage the surplus, say they hope the price cut will encourage customers to snap up the discount veg.
Produce buying manager Sam Miller said: ‘Cauliflower is one of the festive vegetables that is extremely popular with Christmas dinner and as a result we order much more for December.
‘Back in November we heard that our suppliers were not going to be able to meet our orders as a result of the crop failure causing severe issues across the whole UK market.
‘But the good news is that a bumper crop of British cauliflowers are now ready to go, and we were delighted to help make sure they don’t go to waste.’
Vegetable suppliers say the cauliflower, which is actually in the mustard family, usually flowers in late October and early November, in time for Christmas dinners.
But one grower, TH Clements, based near Spalding in Lincolnshire, says their crops flowered too late for the festive season.
They blamed a lack of cold nights in August and September delayed the growth of the brassica in the UK.
The shortage led supermarkets to import the vegetables from France and Spain to meet festive demand.
Richard Mowbray, commercial director at TH Clements, said: ‘We had some of the worst growing conditions for many years and it’s hit us really hard as we missed out on the big Christmas market.
‘The cauliflower is a cool weather vegetable and the season started badly in August and September as we didn’t get any cold nights, which are important for growth.
Grower, TH Clements, based near Spalding in Lincolnshire, says their crops flowered too late for the festive season. They blamed a lack of cold nights in August and September delayed the growth of the brassica in the UK
‘The plants did not flower at the right time, which is the end of October and beginning of November. Instead they started flowering in December meaning they were a month behind schedule.
‘Now we have a large surplus of cauliflowers and some of these would be going to waste had Tesco not stepped in to help.’
Tesco has pledged to help manage the surplus and has bought an extra 500,000 cauliflowers from grower TH Clements.
The cauliflowers, which are finally being harvested, will be sold for 49p each instead of the regular 79p price for the next two weeks.
It comes as yesterday it Aldi was named the cheapest supermarket of the year in an annual survey.
The German discount retailer was the cheapest supermarket for six of the last 12 months, according to research by consumer advice firm Which?.
However Aldi’s main rival, Lidl, which was the cheapest supermarket in 2020, offered the best deal for shoppers in December, at £23.29 for a basket of 22 groceries compared with £23.64 at Aldi.
The top five items in terms of price rises from January and December
According to Which? the items to see the highest price rises from January to December last year are:
Royal Gala apples +14%
Free-range eggs +12%
Brown onions +11%
Fresh skimmed milk +10%
Fresh semi-skimmed milk +9%
Meanwhile, Waitrose was more than £9, or 41 per cent more expensive than Lidl, at £32.85, in December.
As for annual price rises, it was generally bad news for shoppers, particularly in Waitrose. According to the consumer group, prices on selected staple items at the British supermarket rose by 9.2 per cent between January and December last year.
Prices on the same or similar items rose by around 3.4 per cent across all supermarkets last year, with higher than average price rises at both Lidl and Aldi.
Some own-brand grocery items rose more in price than others across all eight supermarkets, including Royal Gala apples (up 14 per cent), free-range eggs (up 12 per cent), brown onions (up 11 per cent), skimmed milk (up 10 per cent) and semi-skimmed milk (up 9 per cent).
While Aldi topped the cheapest supermarket charts for six months of last year, German rival Lidl was the cheapest for five, including crucially for Christmas shoppers, last December.
The two discount supermarket chains were tied last January, with a basket of 19 items coming in at £18.45 at both discounters.
Prices rose by an average 3.4 per cent for a trolley of 19 items over the last year.
Waitrose prices increased the most – by 9.2 per cent – and Sainsbury’s the least, at 0.59 per cent, according to the analysis by Which?.
Waitrose was also consistently the most expensive supermarket across the 12 months, with a basket of everyday items costing from £6 to over £10 more per month than the cheapest alternative, Which? found.
The shopping list combined branded items such as Kenco coffee, Oxo stock cubes and PG Tips tea bags with own-label products including onions and milk, selected to ensure they were as comparable as possible across the retailers on factors such as weight and quality.
Which? also compared a larger trolley containing a greater selection of items not always available at Aldi and Lidl, such as Cathedral City cheddar cheese and Kenco coffee, finding that Asda was the cheapest of the traditional supermarkets at £135.07 – £18.30 cheaper than the most expensive, Waitrose.
Waitrose was also the most expensive for the larger trolley every month except one in 2021.
Need inspiration on how to use your cut-price cauliflower? Here are some ideas:
The classic British dish commonly served with a good roast dinner.
Cauliflower cheese consists of pieces of cauliflower lightly boiled and covered with a milk-based cheese sauce, for which a mature cheese tends to be preferred.
It can be eaten as a main course, for lunch or dinner, or as a side dish.
Ingredients – Serves six
1 large cauliflower – broken into pieces
4 tbsp flour
100g strong cheddar – grated
Source: BBC Good Food
While cauliflower cheese is the traditional dish, cauliflower rice is the trendy newcomer.
Use a cheese grater with medium-size holes or a good processor to break up the cauliflower head into rice size pieces.
Dry it in a towel to remove the moisture, season and saute or steam for around 5-8 minutes.
Ingredients – Serves five
– 1 large head cauliflower – makes five servings
– Can add seasoning such as salt and pepper and spices to add flavour
– Use 1 Tbsp of oil to saute
Source: Minimalist Baker
Roasted Aloo Gobi
Bored of a chicken curry? This might spice up your life.
Cut up large chunks of cauliflower and potato and mix in with spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powder.
You could even serve it with cauliflower rice if you are really trying to eat your way through the cauliflower surplus.
Ingredients – Serves four
400g potatoes – cut into medium-sized chunks
1 large cauliflower – cut into florets
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
4 tbsp vegetable oil or sunflower oil or rapeseed oil
8 curry leaves
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 small green chillies, pierced a few times
1 tsp golden caster sugar
1 lime, juiced
Source: BBC Good Food