Broccoli—planted last spring– will continue to grow until severe freezing temperatures arrive. Harvest broccoli when flower heads have formed, but while the florets are still in tight buds.
Harvest the large main or top floret first. Once the main floret is cut, smaller florets develop in leaf axils or side shoots down the stem; in a few weeks, these become your second and third harvests.
Cut broccoli when flower heads are close and green. Remove all but the small leaves about the head before cutting the flower head with a sharp knife or pruner. Make your cut a few inches below each head leaving some stem. Be sure to cut broccoli heads regularly to keep new heads coming.
Once flower heads appear on the plant, check florets every day as they develop. Always harvest heads when they are full but before they become heavy and floppy. It’s better to cut broccoli florets a day or two or three early and keep them in the refrigerator than to be surprised by an unusually warm winter day which will open the flowers and spoil your efforts. The yellow florets are bitter tasting; the closed buds are sweet.
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Wash flower heads and attached stems and place them upright in a deep kettle; keep the heads just above the water. Leave the kettle uncovered and let the water boil until the stems are almost tender. Then immerse the heads and cook them until they are just tender. The entire cooking time is 15 to 30 minutes. Serve broccoli flower heads with browned butter, cream, cheese, or Hollandaise sauce.
Set new broccoli plants in the garden early next spring as soon as the ground can be prepared.
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 at a cool time of the year. Temperatures in the 80sF (26°+C) will cause buds to open. If you live where there are short springs and long summers, 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 flowering 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.
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.
Kitchen tips: How to Prepare and Cook Broccoli
Growing tips: How to Grow Broccoli
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Learn when and how to harvest your favorite vegetables for the best flavor and texture. Get storage tips for each crop. Click on the vegetable you are growing below.
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