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    “Farmer” Bucko plants his first vegetable garden with cauliflower. Photo by Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader
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    Bucko’s goal was to eat home-grown cauliflower, a goal shared by the local rabbits. Photo by Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader
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    Bucko’s crop. A special variety of cauliflower “for leprechauns.” Photo by Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader

Cauliflower for leprechauns (and rabbits)

Wild Ways

In our house, we have a longstanding relationship with cauliflowers, a love/hate sort of thing.

I hate cauliflower, but Bucko loves it. He loves it so much that back in California, years ago, I planted a special spot in my vegetable garden with cauliflower. Lo and behold, we harvested a crop of nice big heads.

I proudly steamed up the best of the lot, an entire head in one chunk, and served it to Bucko, with great expectations about his glowing reaction. But it was anything but.

“What’s this dark glob here in the middle?” he pointed out. I investigated the remains on his plate and what did I find? Slugs. Dead, cooked slugs. Worse yet, he had eaten most of them already. Ugh. I will never live this down – it’s a testimonial to our strong bond that we are still together 40 years later.

I never planted cauliflower again. Here we don’t really have slugs to worry about, but I just don’t like the stuff enough to invest time and energy in growing it. But this winter cauliflower again made its scene in our veggie garden, thanks to Bucko.

I’ve just about given up growing any vegetables these days. We have a real rabbit problem out back. We have put up “rabbit-proof fencing,” but the rabbits (smaller here than elsewhere, I guess) just hopped through the openings. Elsewhere, they burrow under our existing fence to get in. We’ve tried trapping and relocating the rabbits, but more come back as soon as the last ones disappear.

When the rabbits hit the garden, they destroy it all overnight. As soon as any lettuce, spinach or sweet pea flower sprouts appear, the rabbits go down the line and gobble them all up.

Now you see them. Now you don’t.

Until we finally get a full fence put up around the garden, I have given up.

This year, Bucko decided to prove me wrong. He still claims that rabbits are not a problem, and he decided to prove it by making his first foray into the world of planting vegetables.

We went to Lowe’s so he could choose something to plant. I kept my mouth shut during this project, letting him get the full gardening experience for himself. Among all the vegetable plants he could have purchased, he chose cauliflower (of course).

I watched as he carefully read the directions from the internet on planting them, and spaced them far apart in the otherwise empty gardening space to allow for future growth when they get 2 feet high and wider around. Good so far.

For the first few days he was vigilant in watering his new plants and admiring their new leaves. But then he started noticing that something was chewing on the leaves. But he didn’t worry: “Maybe it’s the rabbits, but they will eat just a few leaves, and I’ll still get my luscious cauliflower crop.”

Well, he got a crop, if you can call it that. Each night, the rabbits ate every bit of new leaf growth. Over the weeks, the plants became nothing more than an almost leafless stalk, eaten down to the nub.

The nub, however,  did turn into cauliflower – tiny ones, fully mature but less than the size of a thimble. I gleefully took photos of Bucko harvesting his first crop, a mere handful of white veggies, not enough to bother cooking or even eating, for that matter. But always with the last word, Bucko now says he was purposely growing these cauliflower “for leprechauns,” and was working on his special miniature version to appeal to them!

We may not have gotten much bodily nourishment from this cauliflower experiment, but it sure gave us a number of weeks of laughter. And, after all these years, that’s good enough for us!

Pat Foster-Turley is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. 



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