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How to Harvest and Store Broccoli

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Broccoli harvest

Harvest broccoli when the heads are green and firm and before the florets have begun to open.

Broccoli heads are clusters of flowers. The florets are ready for harvest 10 to 13 weeks after sowing and plants produce buds for 6 to 8 weeks.

When to Harvest Broccoli

  • Time broccoli planting so harvest happens in a cool time of the year. Temperatures in the 80sF (26°+C) will cause buds to open. If you live where there are a short spring and long summer, it is better to plant broccoli in late summer for a fall harvest.
  • To know when broccoli is ready to pick, run your finger over the green central flower head, if it feels tight you can delay picking, but once the buds start to loosen start the harvest. Broccoli florets can be cut for 1 to 2 weeks before they mature.
  • Broccoli heads can be as large as 4 or more inches (10 cm) across, but smaller heads are very flavorful. Cut heads with an inch or more of stem attached; both the head and stem are edible.
  • A few days after the main stem is cut, the plant will begin to form smaller heads on side sprouts. This will be your second harvest. The secondary sprouts will be smaller than the central bud, but very edible and tasty.
  • Whenever you harvest, it is important to leave 2 or 3 inches (5-7 cm) of the stem behind. New buds will form on these stems.
  • Once flower heads open to yellow flowers the buds will be past their prime and can become bitter flavored and mealy—though edible.

How to Harvest Broccoli

  • Harvest shoots with a sharp knife. Cut stems at an angle so that moisture does not collect on stems allowing fungal diseases to grow.
  • Check the plant every 2 or 3 days for harvestable buds.
  • Keep cutting buds and the plant will keep producing new side shoots with bite-sized buds until a frost kills the plant. Break or cut these new, smaller buds off near the main stem.
  • If buds open to yellow flowers, cut them away immediately otherwise the plant will soon stop producing.
Broccoli in plastic bag
Place broccoli in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator.

How to Store Broccoli

  • Store broccoli in a cold and moist place, 32°-40°F/ 0°-4°C and 95 percent relative humidity. Cold and moist storage is a challenge. Refrigerators provide the cold, but they also dry the air.
  • Place broccoli in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
  • Unwashed broccoli will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Washing before storage encourages bacterial head rot.

Growing tips at How to Grow Broccoli.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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