When to harvest broccoli?

When to Harvest Broccoli?

I get this question all the time: how do you know when broccoli is ready to harvest? The answer is in your fingertips. You can tell when to harvest broccoli by touching the head, or bud (that’s what broccoli is, a cluster of flower buds), and squeezing.

If the head is firm and tight, and about the diameter that is expected for the variety you’ve grown, it’s ready to pick. If the head gives when you squeeze it, or there are spaces forming between florets, or even flowers opening, it’s past its prime. Never fear, though, you can still eat it, even if it’s flowering.

Let’s look at an example:

Rosalind broccoli harvested a little late

This head of broccoli was harvested a little too late. The head is no longer dome-shaped, but has an uneven texture and appearance. If you were to squeeze this, the buds would give under pressure, and you would feel space between the florets.

Rosalind broccoli ready to harvest

This head of broccoli, on the other hand, is just starting to loosen up, but still feels tight when squeezed. There is no movement or space between florets. It’s perfect and ready to harvest.

When to harvest

Many people expect large heads of broccoli, like the type sold in supermarkets, when they grow heirloom varieties. Most heirloom broccoli reach only 3-4 inches in diameter, however. That isn’t entirely true for all open pollinated varieties, though. Nutribud and Waltham grow larger, more like supermarket types. 4-6″ for Nutribud and 4-8″ for Waltham. The Rosalind purple broccoli we grew this season has given us 7-8″ heads. Very impressive for an heirloom.

The bottom line is to consult your seed packet for 2 things: days to maturity and expected size. You can always mark your calendar when you plant broccoli to help you know when to start looking for harvest-ready plants.

Sprouting broccoli

Sprouting broccoli has a different growth habit than its cousin. You’ll find smaller florets sprouting throughout the plant. Use the same technique to harvest these: touch and sight. Feel for firmness, and harvest before the buds loosen.

Side shoots

Broccoli is somewhat of a factory plant like kale and collards, which keep producing all season long. Don’t pull the whole plant, because once you cut off broccoli’s center head, side shoots will begin to appear.

Side shoots form tiny heads of broccoli you can harvest for at least a month.

Side shoots keep going for weeks, and after you hit the point where you can’t keep up, the flowers open and bees come to pollinate. We inevitably let our broccoli go to flower every year to keep the pollinator population happy.

Cut the center head with a sharp knife of pruning shears below the top sets of leaves. That will encourage side shoots to form. Store your harvest in plastic bags in the crisper, or in glass lock-lid containers in the fridge.

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Broccoli and cauliflower are two vegetables that I find incredibly difficult to harvest. It’s not actually the harvesting part that is difficult, a sharp knife will do the trick, it’s the when that I find challenging. The packet says 55 to 60 days, but I live in Maine, things take a bit longer. If you live in a hot climate, you might find things go a little faster in your neck of the woods.

When it comes to broccoli, too soon and the heads are tiny, too late and you have open florets on their way to flowers. So how do you reach a balance? What do you look for at harvest time?

Even though I’m focusing on broccoli today, the same rules apply to cauliflower as well.

What Time is the Right Time?

Use your packet as a guide for when to start checking your broccoli frequently. I’d start keeping an eye on things for a week on either side of the estimated harvest dates. Here’s what you should be looking for:

  • The head should be between 3 and 6 inches for most varieties (your seed packet may give you a better idea of mature head size).
  • The florets should be tight without being squished together. They should move a bit when you run a finger over them.
  • The color should be a nice deep green color. Yellow tinting means flowering is imminent.

When is it Too Late?

If your florets are getting stringy, or they are turning a significant yellow tint, your broccoli is about to bloom. It will be too bitter to eat. If you waited too long, keep reading because you may still be able to enjoy the second round.

How to Harvest

When you’ve decided to harvest, grab a nice sharp knife. The easier it is to cut the broccoli head, the better it is for the plant. Cut the head off in one swipe, leaving a 6″ stem. Store in a cool place for up to a week or you can preserve your broccoli by freezing or canning.

The Second or More Shows

Did you manage to cut off the mature head in one swipe? Congratulations! You just increased your odds of getting healthy offshoots. Your broccoli will grow more heads from the wound of the first cutting. They won’t be as large, but they taste just as good. This time you will get several heads. The color and florets will be indicators of harvest just like the main head. You can harvest these individually. You’ll want to harvest the head(s) in the center first so the ones along the outside will have more energy to grow larger.

Have you mastered broccoli harvesting?

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I’d like to think we are the people who don’t fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader’s life.

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Fresh broccoli is one of the highlights of the vegetable garden, growing crisp and delicious in the chilly temperatures of early spring and fall. Nowadays, I can’t remember why I disliked broccoli as a kid, but I suspect it was its kinship to cabbage and mustards – and distinctive sharp flavor – that was too much for a young veggie skeptic.

Thankfully, I overcame my broccoli boycott, because this is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. It’s also easy to grow and one of those cool-weather veggies that thrives when not much else does. Here’s what you need to know about growing broccoli in your garden.

About Broccoli

Unlike its leafy cabbage cousins, broccoli is grown for its immature flower heads. The secret to growing broccoli is to encourage full, healthy flower heads but to harvest them before they mature (“bolt”) and lose flavor.

There are many varieties of broccoli to choose from, from the popular large-headed varieties to spicy broccoli Raab to Romanesco and sprouting varieties. Some types of broccoli focus on one main flower head, while others sprout smaller individual florets. Make sure you understand the growing habits of your variety of broccoli in order to harvest properly.

Broccoli Growing Conditions

  • Planting: Broccoli is a cool-season vegetable that likes daytime temperatures in the 60s and can tolerate light frost and temps down to the 20s. Many gardeners plant broccoli in early spring for the main harvest, then leave the plants growing over the summer for a second harvest in the fall.
  • Summer Heat: Broccoli will “bolt” (go to seed) in hot weather, which results in a loss of flavor and toughening of texture. Some varieties are more heat-tolerant than others.
  • Light: Broccoli needs full sun, at least 4-5 hours per day.
  • Soil: Broccoli likes rich, well-draining soil with a pH around 6. Because of the short growing season, broccoli is in a race against time and needs high-quality soil amended with plenty of rich compost. To improve drainage, you can plant your broccoli in mounds.
  • Fertilizer: Broccoli benefits from regular applications of organic fertilizer.
  • Harvesting: Broccoli seeds take 3-4 months from planting to harvest while transplants take 2-3 months.

Broccoli Planting Tips

  • Seeds: Unless you start seeds indoors over the winter, it may be difficult to grow a spring broccoli crop from seed, because the weather will warm too quickly. Fall crops are much easier to start from seed directly in the garden. Plant broccoli seeds about ¼ to ½ inch deep, and transplant to the garden in about 5 weeks.
  • Transplants: Plant broccoli seedlings as soon as the ground can be worked in spring. If you’re planting broccoli transplants or seedlings, set them a little deeper in the soil than they were in the pot.
  • Spacing: Space broccoli plants about 18 inches apart.
  • Successive Plantings: Although the growing season is short for broccoli, you may be able to stagger plantings every 2-3 weeks for a longer harvest.

Broccoli Growing Tips

  • Feeding: Broccoli grows in a hurry, and it needs a lot of nutrients. Rich compost will help feed your hungry broccoli, but it will also benefit from applications of compost tea or from monthly applications of a balanced organic fertilizer.
  • Watering: Like other veggies, broccoli needs to be kept evenly moist. Give broccoli about an inch of water per week, and water deeply (rather than sprinkling) to encourage deep roots, but don’t let your broccoli plants become too dry between waterings.
  • Diseases & Pests: Broccoli isn’t plagued by many diseases. The most common insect pests are aphids, cabbage worms, and slugs.
  • Bolting: When growing broccoli in the spring, you’re in a race with the weather to keep your plants from going to seed. Hot soil is the culprit, so take steps to keep the soil cool for as long as possible. Mulch, regular water, and shade covers can prolong your broccoli season, and as the weather warms you should harvest more frequently to keep your plants from shifting into seed mode.

Broccoli Harvest and Use

  • When to Harvest: When the main broccoli head is several inches in diameter, your broccoli is ready to harvest. The heads should be green, compact, and firm. If your broccoli plant produces side shoots, those florets may be smaller (but just as yummy). If left unharvested, broccoli heads will loosen and open into yellow flowers – if this happens, it’s too late.
  • How to Harvest: Using a sharp knife, cut the main stalk of the broccoli at an angle, several inches below the flower head. Continue caring for the broccoli plant – it will likely begin producing side shoots and more broccoli!
  • Storage: Fresh, dry broccoli will last in the fridge about 5 days in a non-airtight container. Wash broccoli immediately before use.
  • Freezing: Broccoli freezes well. Cut the florets into pieces, then blanch the fresh broccoli by submerging it in boiling water for one minute, then plunging it into ice water to cool. Drain and dry, and pack the broccoli into airtight plastic bags.

Further Information

  • Vegetable Garden: Growing Cool-Season Vegetables (article)
  • Broccoli – Watch Your Garden Grow (University of Illinois)
  • Bolting Broccoli: Growing Broccoli in Hot Weather (Gardening Know How)

Broccolini Information – How To Grow Baby Broccoli Plants

If you go into a fairly nice restaurant these days, you may find that your side of broccoli has been replaced by something called broccolini, sometimes referred to as baby broccoli. What is brocollini? It looks sort of like broccoli, but is it? How do you grow baby broccoli? Read on for broccolini information on growing broccolini and baby broccoli care.

What is Broccolini?

Broccolini is a hybrid of European broccoli and Chinese gai lan. In Italian, the word ‘broccolini’ means baby broccoli, hence it’s other common name. Although it is partially comprised of broccoli, unlike broccoli, broccolini has very small florets and a tender stem (no need to peel!) with large, edible leaves. It has a subtle sweet/peppery flavor.

Broccolini Information

Broccolini was developed over a span of eight years by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan in Salinas, California in 1993. Originally called ‘aspabroc,’ it is a natural rather than genetically modified hybrid.

The original name of ‘aspabroc’ was chosen for the undertones of asparagus reminiscent of the hybrid. In 1994, Sakata partnered with Sanbon Inc. and began marketing the hybrid under the name Asparation. By 1998, a partnership with Mann Packing Company led to the crop being called Broccollini.

Because of the myriad of names broccoli has gone by, it can still be found under many of the following: asparation, asparations, sweet baby broccoli, bimi, broccoletti, broccolette, sprouting broccoli, and tenderstem.

High in vitamin C, broccolini also contains vitamin A and E, calcium, folate, iron, and potassium, all with just 35 calories a serving.

How to Grow Baby Broccoli

Growing broccolini has similar requirements to broccoli. Both are cool weather crops, although broccolini is more sensitive to cold than broccoli but it is also less sensitive to heat than broccoli.

Broccolini thrives in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Start seeds indoors in the early spring or early fall depending on when you want to harvest. Set the plants outside when they are 4-6 weeks old.

Space the transplants a foot (30 cm.) apart and 2 feet (61 cm.) apart in rows. If in doubt, more room is preferable between plants since broccolini can become quite a large plant.

Baby Broccoli Care

Mulch over the plant’s roots to help retain moisture, retard weeds and keep the plant cool. Broccolini needs lots of water, at least 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) per week.

Broccolini will be ready to harvest when the heads begin to form and the leaves are a brilliant, dark green, usually 60-90 days after planting. If you wait until the leaves are turning yellow, the broccolini heads will be wilted instead of crisp.

As with broccoli, once the head is cut, provided the plant is still green, broccolini will reward you with a last harvest of florets.

How To Cut Broccoli

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Learn how to cut broccoli with this quick and easy video tutorial!

I feel like Dana Carvey would be extra proud of today’s How-To Tuesday video tutorial.

We’re choppin’ broccoliii!

In my experience developing recipes on this site for years, people tend to love broccoli or hate it. ? I used to be strongly in the latter camp, but over the past decade or so, I somehow crossed the bridge and now can’t get enough of this vibrant, versatile, nutrient-packed cruciferous veggie. I love eating it roasted, raw, stir-fried, in a slaw, totally plain…you name it, I’ll eat it.

That said, I know that an entire head of broccoli can seem a little intimidating to cut into if you’ve never been taught. So today, I thought it’d be fun to share a quick step-by-step video for how to cut broccoli and separate out those cute little baby trees — I mean, florets — for your recipes. And of course, don’t forget those stems too! Broccoli stems are totally edible and full of fiber and can add some great texture to your recipes, so we’ve included tips for how to slice and dice them four different ways. Plus, as always, tips on how to select fresh broccoli at the store, and what to make with it.

Let’s get to choppin’!

How To Cut Broccoli | 1-Minute Video

See the video above for my favorite method for how to cut into a full head of broccoli, how to separate out the florets, and 4 different options for how to cut the stem.

How To Select Fresh Broccoli:

In general, you want to look for broccoli at the market that:

  • with bright green florets that are tightly-packed (avoid florets that are yellowed)
  • with firm, strong stalks (avoid older stocks that seem stringy or woody)
  • are in season (peak season is from October through April)

How To Roast Broccoli:

I actually have a full tutorial on the blog for my favorite roasted broccoli recipe here. So simple and so delicious!

Favorite Broccoli Recipes:

Looking for some tasty broccoli recipe inspiration? Here are a few of my faves!

  • Broccoli Cheese Soup
  • Healthier Broccoli Chicken Casserole
  • Roasted Broccoli Farro Bowls
  • Beef and Broccoli
  • 12-Minute Chicken and Broccoli
  • Cheesy Broccoli, Chicken and Rice Bowls

Description

Learn how to cut broccoli with this quick and easy tutorial!

Scale 1x2x3x

Ingredients

  • 1 head of broccoli

posted on March 28, 2017 in How To’s

When most people think of broccoli, they think about the tender little florets at the end of the head. Which is a shame, because every part of the vegetable—including that thick stem—is not only edible, but totally delicious. Over here at Basically, we have a strong value around deliciousness, and a strong value around getting the most out of the groceries we spend our hard earned money on, so when we’re working with broccoli, we’re going to figure out how to eat the whole thing—stem and all.

When we’re using broccoli raw in something like a quinoa salad, we think about what each part of the head has to offer. Those tiny buds at the very top are like little mops that soak up whatever dressing you’re using and disperse it throughout the dish. The florets underneath are bright tasting with a great crisp-tender texture, and the denser parts of the stem offer huge crunch and an appealing sweetness. Which is why we butcher the vegetable (yeah, we said that) in such a way that helps each part shine. Here’s how to chop broccoli without wasting a thing:

Basically BroccoliPhoto by Laura Murray

To start, we’re going to shave most of those little bitty buds into our bowl. Hold the broccoli by the stem in one hand, and hold the knife parallel to the top of floret with your other hand. Very lightly, take off the thinnest layer, without cutting into the florets.

Photo by Laura Murray

Young Broccoli Plant Growing In Stock Photos and Images

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Planting Broccoli Seed: How To Save Broccoli Seeds In The Garden

Growing broccoli from seed may not be anything new, but saving seeds from broccoli plants in the garden may be for some. This is a great way to put those bolted broccoli plants to work since they’re really no good for much else. Keep reading to learn how to save broccoli seeds.

Seed Starting: Broccoli History

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) belongs to the large family Brassicaceae/Crucifera, which includes other vegetables like Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi. Broccoli is a cool weather plant originating from Asia Minor and the eastern Mediterranean. This Brassica has been harvested from at least the first century AD, when the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote of his people’s enjoyment of broccoli.

In modern gardens, broccoli took a while to catch on. Eaten in Italy and other Mediterranean areas, the name broccoli means “little sprout” and it was in these Italian neighborhoods of North America that broccoli first made its appearance. While broccoli was grown in the 1800s, it wasn’t until 1923 when it was first shipped from the West that it gained in popularity.

Nowadays, broccoli has been bred to improve its adaptability, quality, and resistance

to disease, and can be found in every supermarket. Seed starting broccoli plants have also caught on; the plants are commonly grown in many home gardens today and growing broccoli from seed isn’t too difficult.

Saving Seeds from Broccoli

Broccoli plants can be a bit more difficult than other vegetables when saving seeds. This is because broccoli is a cross-pollinator; it needs other broccoli plants nearby in order to pollinate. As the broccoli plant is so closely related to other members of the mustard family, cross-pollination may occur among other plants of this same species, creating hybrids.

While these hybrids are often purposely created and have been seen in the grocery store of late, not all hybrids lend themselves to a good marrying. Hence, you will no doubt never see a cauli-kale and should probably plant only one type of Brassica if you want to save the seed.

How to Save Broccoli Seeds in the Garden

To save broccoli seeds, first choose broccoli plants that show the traits you wish to carry over into next year’s garden. The unopened flower buds, which in turn will be your seeds, are the area of the broccoli plant that we eat. You may have to sacrifice eating your most delectable head and use it instead for seeds.

Allow this broccoli head to mature and turn from green to yellow as the flowers bloom and then turn into pods. The pods are what contain the seeds. Once the pods are dry on the broccoli plant, remove the plant from the ground and hang to dry for up to 2 weeks.

Remove the dried pods from the broccoli plant and crush them in your hands or with a rolling pin to remove the seeds. Separate the chaff from the broccoli seeds. Broccoli seeds remain viable for five years.

Planting Broccoli Seed

To plant your broccoli seeds, start them indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost in warm, moist soil.

Keep broccoli starts in direct sun to keep them from getting spindly and then transplant at four to six weeks, 12-20 inches apart. Broccoli may also be started directly in the garden after the danger of frost, ½ to ¾ inch deep and 3 inches apart.

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