What Are the Best Tips for Harvesting Broccoli?

Andrew Kirmayer

Broccoli is one of the most nutritious of green vegetables and it can grow in just about any garden. Harvesting broccoli is done by cutting the heads of mature plants. There are generally a few things to look for to know the best time to harvest. Since broccoli doesn’t grow in very cold or hot conditions, timing is typically important when it comes to planting the seeds; spring or fall are usually the best times to plant. The plant generally matures anywhere from 50 to 100 days after being planted and, once the head is up to 6 or 7 inches (about 15 to 18 cm) across, it is usually ready to be harvested.

Broccoli florets should have a dark green color before harvesting.
Broccoli florets should have a dark green color before harvesting.

When harvesting broccoli, the color is usually one indication of the plant’s maturity. It is typically a deep green that the vegetable is known for. There will also be florets at the edges, which can grow to the size of about a match head. Most broccoli plants are ready to be harvested at this point; if the florets start to turn yellow or flower, then the head should be cut immediately.

The appearance of the head is generally a sign the plant is maturing. Broccoli plants can be up to 2.5 feet (about 0.8 meters) high, so the height of the stem alone is usually not an indicator. Pests often invade if there is too much water so this is also something to consider when harvesting broccoli in a vegetable garden. Root rot and snails can be a problem if the plant is too moist. Bugs such as cabbage loopers and aphids can get into it as well, so it is generally important to thoroughly wash the broccoli after it is harvested.

When the color and size are right, harvesting broccoli is typically accomplished by cutting the stem. Sawing can damage the stem and prohibit new heads from growing; it is usually helpful to cut the stem, about 5 inches (about 13 cm) down from the head, with a knife. Once cut, the heads can be washed in salt water, soaked for 30 minutes, and then boiled. They can then be preserved by freezing.

If the main head is cut carefully when harvesting broccoli, the shoots to the side often grow into new ones. The tips in successfully harvesting the plant can be repeated when these are mature. Planting broccoli often yields vegetables that can be harvested in the spring and fall if the soil is right and the plant is properly cared for.

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