Half a million East Anglian cauliflowers which were too late for Christmas to be sold cheap by Tesco

UK cauliflowers are finally being harvested after a poor growing season Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

They are the ultimate Christmas dinner leftovers - half a million cauliflowers that flowered too late for the big day, and which are only now being harvested.

Farmers say it is down to "some of the worst growing conditions for many years", and that the crop will now have to be sold off at reduced prices after missing the December 25 target.

British retailers had to import the vegetables from France and Spain to meet festive demand as a lack of cold nights in August and September delayed the growth of the brassica in the UK.

Supermarket Tesco has pledged to help manage the surplus and has bought an extra 500,000 cauliflowers from grower TH Clements, based near Spalding in Lincolnshire.

A lack of cold nights in August and September delayed growth Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

The cauliflowers, which are finally being harvested, will be sold for 49p each instead of the regular 79p price for the next two weeks.

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.

“The plants did not flower at the right time, which is the end of October and beginning of November.

The cauliflowers will sell for a reduced price Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

“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 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.”