Let me tell you about the first time I grew broccoli. I planted three in a row. They were one of the first to grow in my garden that year, and I was proud. As they started to go from small heads to the kind you see in the grocery store, I realized I didn’t know how to cut broccoli off the plant. And honestly, I was confused why anyone would grow such a big plant for one head of broccoli. So I just kept letting them grow… until they flowered. This was too late to learn that the flowering state means my time had run out, and also that had I cut them early, they would have produced additional heads of broccoli. I was broccoli-less that year, which is particularly sad because they take up a good amount of space.
Luckily, a more experienced friend explained to me, when I told her of my broccoli woes, how to cut broccoli off the plant early enough so I could enjoy this nutritional powerhouse for several months. Ever since, I’ve had the luxury of walking out to my garden to collect fresh, delicious broccoli for all sorts of meals.
How to cut broccoli off the plant: Your guide to seasonal joy
There are a few tricks to learning how to cut broccoli off the plant at the right time, but it’s not hard. It’s really just a matter of keeping an eye on your plants. Look for the broccoli head to start forming those tight, dense groupings of buds you’re used to seeing in the supermarket.
One of the most obvious signs to watch for is flowering. A head of broccoli is really just a collection of flower buds. Once you see the very first sign of a yellow flower, that’s when you know it’s time to cut your broccoli.
Broccoli is a cool-weather plant, so if the temperatures are climbing, be sure to check your plant every day for those hints of flowering. Once flowers start appearing, the flavor decreases rapidly.
As for how to cut broccoli off the plant once it’s ready, grab your pruning shears and clip the stalk at an angle about five or six inches below the center head.
That’s your first harvest.
Over the next few weeks or months (depending on the variety and climate) you’ll notice smaller side shoots of broccoli heads. These won’t be as tightly packed as the center head was, but they are every bit as delicious. You can clip those as well.
How to cut broccoli off the plant: The extra-special bonus section
Just because you know how to cut broccoli off the plant and enjoy two, three, or more harvests, doesn’t mean you are done. The leaves of the broccoli plant are an oft overlooked source of culinary joy. If you haven’t tried them, you’re really missing out.
Broccoli leaves are a perfect substitute for kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and mustard greens. They taste a little like broccoli rabe – slightly sweet and slightly bitter. They are also immensely healthy.
And once you’ve harvested the broccoli heads and partaken of the leaves, the remaining plant can go right into your compost bin to help nourish your garden. That’s what I call a winning addition to your planting.
What has your experience been like with growing broccoli? Share your stories and tips in the comments below.