When do you harvest broccoli? We get this question all the time about when to know to pick broccoli and how to know it’s ready for harvesting.
We will focus on this topic to make it clear for all gardeners.
You can quickly tell when broccoli is ready by touching its bud or head and gently squeezing it. If the head is tight and firm, and the diameter is about the expected size for its kind of variety, then it’s time to harvest it.
If the head gives in when you squeeze it, or you can see spaces forming between florets, it means it’s past its prime. You can still eat it even if it’s flowering but don’t wait till it’s at this stage.
Growing and harvesting your broccoli is one of the most rewarding moments in your vegetable garden.
It takes about 100 days for broccoli plants to reach maturity. Though the size can vary widely, a good general rule is to harvest when the heads reach about 4 to 8 inches in diameter.
But, what are the signs to watch out for and know that your broccoli is ready?
Signs To Look Out For And Know When To Harvest Broccoli
Broccoli harvesting is a bit tricky for some gardeners, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are few signs to look out for and know when it’s ready. They include:
- The Broccoli Has Ahead. It is obvious to look for the broccoli head before harvesting. The first sign of when to harvest broccoli is the most obvious; you have to have the initial head. The head should be firm and tight.
- The Head Size. If your broccoli head is about 4 to 7 inches wide, then it’s time to harvest it. But, don’t be too quick to check the size alone. Be sure to look at the other signs as well.
- The Floret Size – The individual florets size or the flower buds is the most reliable indicator. The florets on the outside edge of the head need to get to the size of the head of a match to be termed mature.
- The Color – The color of the florets must be a key sign to watch out for. The florets should be dep green. Any hint of yellow means the florets are starting to bloom or bolt. Harvest the broccoli immediately if you notice the yellow color-forming.
Read more about When Do You Harvest Brussel Sprouts?
How To Harvest Broccoli
Once you have all the signs above, then it’s time to harvest your broccoli. Harvesting is a simple process. Take a sharp knife and use it to cut the head of the broccoli off the plant.
Cut the head stem at least 5 inches or more below the head, and then gently pick your head. Avoid sawing the stem, as this will cause injury to both the stem and the broccoli head. For the stem, you ruin the chances of harvesting later.
After harvesting the main head, you can go ahead and harvest the side shoots. The side shoots grow like tiny broccoli on the side of the broccoli. Some side shoots are not ready for harvest, so leave them to continue growing. You can come back for them once they are ready and harvest them the same way you did with the broccoli head.
Now that you know how to harvest broccoli, you can cut off those heads of broccoli with confidence.
The Side Shoots
Most people do not know that besides the whole head, the broccoli plant produces other small side shoots that are edible.
Broccoli is like a factory plant, just like kale and collards. It keeps producing all season long. So after the first harvest, don’t pull the whole plant. After harvesting the main head, more crops of the side shoots will keep growing.
Side shoots keep going for weeks. If you don’t harvest them, the flowers open, and bees come to pollinate them. You can opt to stay the pollinator happy by leaving a few plants in the garden and remove the rest.
Use a sharp knife to cut the middle head under the first leaves to don’t leave the plant injured. That will encourage side shoots to form.
Once you harvest your side shoots, store them in plastic bags in the crisper or glass lock-lid containers in the fridge.
How Many Times Can You Harvest From A Single Broccoli Head?
In general, you can harvest up to 2 or 3 times for a period of up to 3 months. The plant will produce its first large center head, and once this is harvested, the small side shoots continue to grow.
Some plants produce these side shoots for up to 3 months, and after that, they flower.
Oh, Did You Know You Can Harvest The Leaves Too?
As you wait for your broccoli to mature, you can harvest the young leaves for an extra treat. They have the same flavor as the heads and are delicious sauteed in oil or butter.
Begin harvesting the leaves when the main head is still small and compact when it’s yet to protrude above the tops of the leaves. Pick the outermost leaves when they are at least 4 to 6 inches long. Pick only a few at a time so as not to harm the plant.
What To Do With Spent Broccoli Plants
Once you have given your broccoli plant time to grow the side shoots and harvested them, too, your plant is finished for the season.
Pull it and put it in the compost to make room and prepare your garden for next year’s crop. Use your plants in the compost if you grow your broccoli organically. If not, we don’t advise you to make compost from non-organic material. It could do more harm than good to your crops.
Growing broccoli is easy, and every gardener can try with as few as 5 to 10 plants to learn the process slowly. Besides germinating the seeds, which is tricky for beginners, the rest of the growth process is pretty much flowing.
Use compost manure to grow your broccoli for a good crop. Remember to water them as often as required. Use well-drained soils that will not encourage water- retention and kill your plants. Remember to watch out for pests and diseases that can destroy your crop. If any, deal with them early on to stop their spreading.
Using these simple but essential steps ensures that you will get a good harvest at the end of all your hard work. And above it all, we have explained to you when to harvest broccoli at the right time.