A quick, straightforward guide to harvesting broccoli florets, as well as tips and things to look out for to know your broccoli is ready for harvest.
Broccoli loves sun and cooler weather, making it a wonderful Fall and Spring crop. Down here in north Texas, we transplanted seedlings in early Fall and it’s still producing for us all the way in February! As if the delicious taste wasn’t incentive enough to grow your own broccoli at home, it’s extremely nutritious. Broccoli contains various vitamins and minerals, and is rich in fiber, vitamin A, folic acid, iron, and potassium.
Growing and harvesting your own broccoli is extremely rewarding. Well, any plant is rewarding, but there’s something special about seeing your first broccoli floret creep up through the leaves. The first time it happened on our homestead, I squealed with excitement and shared it on my Instagram stories! I was starting to wonder if my broccoli patch was going to produce anything at all, so it was exciting to finally see little baby florets forming.
When it comes to harvesting, broccoli can be a tricky thing to figure out.
It’s all about the timing! Depending on your zone, the grow times can vary just a little bit. If you harvest broccoli too early, you’re missing out on size. Too late, and they’re open florets getting ready to flower.
It’s important to note that the first harvest will be the largest. When you cut your broccoli florets too soon, you’re affecting the potential size that the subsequent florets are able to get to.
However, young shoots are the most tender, and have a sweetness to them that older, larger florets lose over time. Like many other herbs and vegetable plants, waiting too long to harvest broccoli can lead to a more bitter taste as the plant begins preparing to go to seed.
How many times can you harvest broccoli?
Generally 2-3 times, depending on how big you allow the florets to grow each time. Basically, you’ll be able to harvest broccoli over the course of about 3 months.
Broccoli is a cool-season crop that bolts in hot, dry weather. This means the amount of time you’re able to harvest the florets will vary depending on the weather in your area. (Though there are some varieties of broccoli, like the Green Goliath, that is heat tolerant, giving you a longer growing season.)
Broccoli isn’t quite as prolific as other vegetables. The fact that it only produces new florets a few times during a growing season make it a little less desirable of an option to many new gardeners when compared to other veggies. But if your family eats a lot of broccoli, it’s well worth it.
How much broccoli should you plant per person?
This is something every new gardener wants to know about each plant. The general consensus for broccoli seems to be 2-4 plants per person, though you’ll find that many gardeners like to overshoot this amount and preserve their harvest so they have broccoli throughout the hot season.
Will broccoli regrow?
Yes, broccoli florets will regrow a few times during the growing season, given the conditions are favorable and the cuts you make while harvesting are fairly clean and not too traumatic to the plant.
However, it’s not like leafy greens, herbs, and peppers. Frequent harvests don’t necessarily promote a higher yield and bigger harvest later in the season. In fact, the subsequent harvests will yield less than the initial one. What remains consistent between these plants is the fact that harvesting allows the broccoli plant to focus its energy on growing new florets.
How do you harvest broccoli so it keeps growing?
Don’t wait too long to make the first harvest, and use a sharp knife to make quick, clean cuts. Try to avoid sawing the stem, as it damages the plant and doesn’t allow for optimal regrowth to occur. I adore involving my son in the garden, but this is a task best left to adults.
Harvesting Broccoli – A Quick, Comprehensive Guide
When I first searched for tips on harvesting various vegetables for the first time, I typically already had shears in my hand. I’d watch a quick video or skim over an article for the nitty gritty tidbits of information. No time for fluff, just tell me how to do it, dangit! So, here’s my quick, comprehensive guide on harvesting broccoli, now that we got the common questions out of the way.
Signs that Broccoli is ready to Harvest
So, how do you know when to pick broccoli from the garden? Here are a few things to look for.
Floret Size and Feel
The first thing to look for is the size and feel of the heads. Most broccoli heads will reach between 4-7 inches wide, and they should feel tight and firm. They don’t always reach this size, so you can’t go off of that alone. It can vary depending on the growing conditions and variety of broccoli. If the florets look a little stringy or leggy, you’ve waited a bit too long to harvest. You can still do so, just take that as a sign to cut them earlier next time.
In ideal conditions, you want your broccoli florets to be a deep green color. If you see even a hint of yellow, you need to harvest immediately, as this indicates that the plant plans on bolting very soon. Once this happens, the broccoli will take on an unpleasant bitter taste.
How to Harvest Broccoli
Pick a sharp knife
The faster and more precisely you can cut through the stem, the better. We use large super sharp shears.
Harvest the big heads in the middle first
This way, the plant can focus its energy on growing the little florets on the sides.
Don’t saw away. Instead, use swift, quick, intentional cuts
This increases the likelihood of having a large, healthy second harvest. Damaging the plant by sawing it with a dull knife is not doing the plant any favors.
Cut the stems 5 inches (or more) below the main head, at a slight angle
Cutting the stems at an angle prevents rot. When you cut your broccoli straight on, water can pool up in the center of the stem, causing the plant to rot.
From here, you can harvest the little florets that pop up on the sides of the main head whenever you feel they’re ready. They may take some more time after the initial harvest of the big heads.
New broccoli florets should emerge from the places you cut in no time! Let them grow in size and get firm, and repeat the process.
It’s recommended that you harvest broccoli in the early morning, before the sun heats them up. It’s easier, as the cooler temps keep the broccoli firm and tight, and it results in crisp, delicious florets.
Store your freshly harvested broccoli in the fridge for up to 5 days, or blanch and freeze them for up to 1 year.
It goes without saying that you can eat the florets raw, with hummus or ranch, cook them with dinner, blanch and freeze for later. But there are lots of creative and fun ways to preserve your garden fresh broccoli. Stay tuned for a guide on preserving your broccoli harvest. Congrats on your harvest!
Did my quick guide help you make your first broccoli harvest? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments down below!
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