Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Harvesting your Broccoli

Gardener harvesting broccoli

Gardener harvesting broccoli

Broccoli is a crop that keeps on giving. Even after you harvest the main cluster of stalks, other will spring up around it, allowing you to keep harvesting for weeks. It depends on the variety, but most broccoli plants mature in about 100 days. Once the flowering heads start to develop, it’s a good idea to check on them every day. Watch for when the heads are dark green (or have changed color, depending on the variety) and the flower clusters are dense with tightly packed buds. If you’re growing headed broccoli, the main head should be about 4 to 8 inches in diameter.

Harvest your broccoli in the morning, armed with a clean, sharp knife. Make a diagonal cut about 6 inches down the stem, where it emerges from a set of leaves, removing the entire head (or stalk, if you’re growing that type of broccoli). The diagonal cut allows water to drip off the stump rather than pool inside, which could lead to rot. Leave the rest of the plant in place, allowing additional shoots to form. Keep an eye on the side shoots and harvest when small flower clusters start to form.

Left too long, broccoli will start to flower. If you begin to see tiny yellow blossoms opening, harvest your broccoli immediately, as the quality of the vegetable will deteriorate rapidly. Once those flowers bloom, you’ve lost your crop.

Store your freshly picked broccoli in a crisper drawer in the fridge for up to five days. Do not wash before storing as the water will encourage rot. Instead, rinse the broccoli under cool water just before using.

If you can’t eat your harvested broccoli within five days, freeze it for later enjoyment. To do this, rinse the broccoli under cold water, drain, and cut the broccoli into 1- to 2-inch chunks of florets and stems. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Immerse the broccoli pieces in rapidly boiling water for one minute. To stop the cooking process, transfer the broccoli from the hot water with a strainer or slotted spoon to the ice bath. After several minutes, drain the iced broccoli in a colander.

Once dry, spread the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the freezer. When the pieces are completely frozen, move them to an airtight container such as a zipper bag. This method will keep the broccoli from freezing in a solid block. Frozen broccoli will keep up to a year.

Do you know exactly when to harvest your broccoli? Please tell us what you look for when getting ready to harvest.


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