How to Harvest Broccoli – 5 Easy Steps

If you are determined to grow your own broccoli, you need to know a few essential things, including how to harvest broccoli. Though the process itself isn’t complicated, if you are new to harvesting, you could kill your plant before you even get the chance to try it.

Broccoli is easy to grow and packed full of nutrition; in addition to its nutrients, broccoli is versatile enough to be added to numerous recipes. It is a great idea to grow your broccoli to have fresh broccoli for your favorite recipes.

Though it may seem a little intimidating, harvesting broccoli is fairly simple, and anyone with the right tools and knowledge can do it. You have nothing to worry about if you follow a few simple guidelines. Learn how to harvest broccoli the right way.

How to Harvest Broccoli

Tools:

  • Gloves
  • Knife or pruners
  • Basket

Steps:

  1. Ensure that your pruners/knives are clean and sharp, as this will keep your broccoli healthy after you cut it and allow it to continue growing.
  2. Use your knife or pruners to clip off the main stalk. Measure 5-8 inches down the stalk below the head and clip or cut the stem.
  3. Ensure you cut at an angle to prevent rain from pooling on top and rotting the center of the stem. Try to cut in one motion to avoid tearing the stalk.
  4. Harvest the side shoots. You can also cut off for up to three months. Check back every 3-4 days to see if there are new side shoots to harvest.
  5. Clip these the same way you harvest the main head, ensuring you cut the stalks at an angle and leave a couple of inches of the stalk at the bottom.

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How do you harvest broccoli so it keeps growing?

  • Harvest the main broccoli head when it stops growing.
  • You’ll know broccoli heads are ready when they’re deep green with small, tightly packed buds.
  • Harvest broccoli right away if it starts to flower or turn yellow.
  • Side shoots will continue growing after the main head is harvested.
  • Harvest side shoots when they reach their ideal color and firmness.
  • In most broccoli varieties, numerous side shoots form as well. These smaller heads continue to mature after the central head is harvested and are the best way to have a second – and sometimes a third – a crop of broccoli from a single plant.
  • Cut the head when it’s still deep green, and there’s no sign of yellow. Once the main head starts to yellow, the plant often goes to seed without forming side shoots.

How many times can you harvest broccoli?

In general, broccoli plants can be harvested twice or up to three months. The plant first produces a large central head. This head should be cut at a slight angle with 5 to 6 inches of stalk. Once cut, the plant will produce smaller side heads for several weeks.

Will broccoli grow back after harvesting?

Unfortunately, like many other garden vegetables, broccoli cannot be harvested for months. The first harvest will take the large central head. Once cut, the plant will continue making smaller side heads for several weeks.

How do you know broccoli is ready to harvest?

It’s tricky to know when to harvest broccoli for peak ripeness. Heads form slowly and remain on the plant for a long time. Broccoli also forms smaller heads as side shoots.
To produce large heads of broccoli, wait until the central head ceases to increase in diameter.
The heads (actually a set of flower buds) should be tight, with a dense set of small, green buds. Flowers do not open all at once, so the first sign of yellow means that the head should be harvested immediately to avoid bitterness. Hot spells (highs in the 80s) for more than one week will cause a quick flowering, so oversee plants and be prepared to harvest immediately.

How to plant broccoli?

  1. If starting seeds outdoors, sow seeds ½-inch deep and 3 inches apart.
  2. Once seedlings reach 2 to 3 inches, thin them so that plants are 12 to 20 inches apart.
  3. If you started seeds indoors, plant transplants that are 4 to 6 weeks old (and have 4 or 5 leaves) outdoors, 12 to 20 inches apart, in holes slightly deeper than their container depth.
  4. Space rows of broccoli 3 feet apart.
  5. Water well at the time of planting.

What are the broccoli varieties?

  • Calabrese. It is an Italian heirloom with large heads and prolific side shoots.
  • Flash. It is a fast-growing, heat-resistant hybrid with good side-shoot production.
  • Green Goliath. It is heat-tolerant with giant heads and prolific side shoots.
  • Green Duke. It is heat tolerant and perfect for Southern gardeners.
  • Green Magic. It is heat tolerant and would freeze well.
  • Paragon. Has extra-long spears; suitable for freezing.

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How to care for broccoli?

  • Plants thrive outdoors in 65°F to 70°F (18° to 21°C) conditions.
  • Fertilize broccoli three weeks after transplanting seedlings into the garden. Use a low-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Plants should be between 12 and 20 inches apart.
  • Do not get developing broccoli heads wet when watering, as it can encourage rot.
  • Roots are very shallow, so try not to disturb the plants. Suffocate weeds with mulch.
  • Mulching around plants will also help to keep soil temperatures down.
  • Use row covers to minimize pests.
  • To promote the growth of a second head after the first has been harvested, maintain an active feeding and watering schedule.

How to store broccoli?

  • Broccoli can be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer for about five days.
  • Don’t wash it before storing it, or this will encourage rotting. Instead, wait until just before you’re ready to eat it to give it a good rinse under cool, running water.
  • Broccoli can be blanched and frozen for up to one year.

Additional Tips on How to Harvest Broccoli

  • Harvest in the morning before the soil warms up for the best flavor. Leave 2-3 inches of the main stem on the plant.
  • Cut with sharp scissors or a knife to avoid damaging the stem.
  • The side shoots that grow are likely to form more open or spreading heads than the central stem, but they’re equally tasty.
  • If you see yellow petals, harvest them immediately, as the quality will decrease rapidly.
  • Cut heads from the plant, taking at least 6 inches of stem. Make a slanted cut on the stalk to allow water to slide away.
  • Most varieties have side shoots that continue to develop after the main head is harvested. You can harvest from one plant for many weeks, sometimes from spring to fall, if your summer isn’t too hot.
  • If your plant is flowering, you can still harvest it as the flowers are edible and can be used in various soup, salad, or stir-fry recipes.

How to Harvest Broccoli Tutorial Video

Harvesting broccoli was fun; how about harvesting cilantro?

Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.
Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.