It’s finally time to harvest your broccoli. You’ve taken extra care during their growing period to ensure your plants had the optimum growing conditions they needed. Now, with full floret heads, you can finally cut and enjoy your crop.
But after taking such care in growing your broccoli, the same amount of care is required to ensure you harvest your crop correctly. Harvest broccoli too early, and your crop won’t have reached its optimum size or flavor. Harvest them too late, and the flowers will have begun blooming and will have a bitter taste.
Keep reading so you can harvest broccoli with confidence and ensure you do so at the right time so your broccoli is in its prime.
Top Tips When Harvesting Broccoli
Before harvesting your broccoli, there are a few things you can look out for to assess whether your broccoli will be ready or not. Of course, do also take into consideration the broccoli variety you are growing too.
Many varieties have a quick maturity of just 60 days, however, other broccoli types take anywhere up to 100 days to grow. This is quite a substantial difference and would be devastating to your crop if you tried to harvest the wrong type of broccoli at the wrong time.
In addition to ensuring you know the type of broccoli you are growing and its estimated time to maturity, you can also look at the color, size, and floret head.
The color of your broccoli head will turn a deep green (or deep purple-blue depending upon the variety you are growing). If your broccoli head starts to turn yellow, you have left it to grow for too long.
However, not all is lost! You can still use your broccoli as it isn’t rotting but wilting instead. It is edible but be prepared for it to taste slightly bitter and be lower in nutrients.
The main broccoli head will usually grow to 4-8 inches wide by the time it is ready to be harvested. Keep in mind that certain varieties will be smaller than your average broccoli.
Finally, make sure to check the average size of each of the small florets. These should be a bold green in color, but also the size of a matchstick head.
How To Harvest Broccoli
Once you have confirmed each of the above elements of your broccoli plants, it is time to harvest your broccoli.
The Main Plant
Broccoli is best harvested in the morning after the morning dew has settled. Check that the broccoli florets are firm and each bud is tight before cutting.
Using a sharp, sterilized knife, cut the base of the broccoli head with at least 6 inches of stalk. Cut at a slant as this minimizes the risk of water pooling on the remaining stem. Cutting at a diagonal will help to prevent the remaining stem from rotting due to excess water.
Once you have cut the head of your broccoli, this can be eaten raw or cooked. If cooking, it is best to steam to ensure your broccoli retains as many nutrients as possible. If you are not eating it immediately, your broccoli can be stored for 5-7 days in the fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze broccoli for up to 8 months before it needs using.
The Remaining Crop
Now you may think that your broccoli plants are no longer useful once the main head has been harvested. However, you would be incorrect!
Your broccoli plants will continue to produce new heads throughout the season if you continue to look after them. Plus, the leaves surrounding your plants are also edible.
Once the main head has been harvested, your broccoli plant will then produce multiple smaller shoots from the main stem. On the end of these shoots will be smaller floret heads that can also be harvested to provide you with a longer supply of broccoli.
Ensure to harvest these in just the same way as you did with your main broccoli head. They will be smaller, however, so you need to use their color and the individual floret size as indicators for when they are ready.
As for the leaves, these can begin to be harvested even before the main head has fully grown. The outer, smaller leaves are best as they are tender and full of flavor compared with larger leaves. Only pick a few at a time so that you don’t harm your broccoli plants. You can continue to pick these leaves throughout the growing season.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you harvest broccoli so it keeps growing?
Make sure to cut the main broccoli head at a diagonal angle with a sterile knife. Continue to maintain and look after your broccoli plants. They will produce side shoots from the main stem several times for the remaining growing season.
How long does it take for broccoli heads to form?
A broccoli head can take 2-3 months to fully form and be ready for harvest. However, it does vary depending on the variety. Most broccoli types take 60-70 days to maturity with others taking up to 100 days.
How many times can you harvest broccoli?
Each broccoli crop can usually be harvested 2-3 times once the first full floret head has formed. After each harvest, the plant produces more shoots and smaller floret heads within the next few weeks.
Can you eat broccoli if it starts to flower?
Yes, you can. Most of the broccoli plant is edible which includes the stem, leaves, buds, and flowers. If you do harvest your broccoli late after flowers have begun forming, you can still harvest and eat your broccoli. Just be aware that it may have a slightly bitter taste and contains fewer nutrients than when it is in its optimum state.
How do you know when broccoli is ready to pick?
Check that your broccoli has:
- A deep green head color (or a darker shade if you have a variety that isn’t green)
- A head that is 4-8 inches wide
- Tight floret buds, each the size of a matchstick.
If your broccoli ticks each of these boxes then it is ready to be harvested.
For more tips on growing, taking care of, and using broccoli, be sure to read these posts: