Growing broccoli in your backyard or indoor garden can be a rewarding experience. The task requires months of effort to create the ideal conditions for broccoli to germinate and to care for the plant while it’s growing. Most of the work required is straightforward to understand, but, how do you know when’s the right time to reap the benefits of your hard work? There’s nothing worse than spending all that time and effort growing your veggies only to have your harvest ruined by doing so at the wrong time. In this article, we’ll delve into details and look at how and when to harvest broccoli.
What You Need to Know About Broccoli Growth
Broccoli is more than just the vegetable kids don’t like to eat in shows or movies. The green plant is high in nutrients such as vitamin A and calcium, making it a great, healthy addition to any diet.
The vegetable has several different varieties. These varieties include Paraiso, Gemini, Belstar, Calabrese, Purple Sprouting, and many others. But, regardless of which type of broccoli you’re growing, the vegetable always grows with a thick stalk and lots of side shoot leaves.
Broccoli is usually grown in cold weather and prefers temperatures between 45°F and 75°F. While broccoli can survive a light frost, it can’t tolerate either too cold or too warm weather. The plant is harvested in late spring or early summer if you plant them right after the last frost. The primary time to harvest the vegetable is right before the flowering process, or bolting, starts.
Overall, broccoli is not that difficult of a plant to grow. While it does require a decent amount of space it’s daily care is relatively low. Generally, you’ll be able to harvest your broccoli about 3-4 months after sprouting. Being a cool weather crop also means you can start your broccoli earlier than many other vegetables.
How And When To Harvest Broccoli
Knowing when to harvest your broccoli is crucial in maintaining its taste. You also have to prevent the plant from bolting. That’s when the broccoli produces its distinguished yellow flowers. Once those flowers bloom, it becomes far too late to harvest the plant as it will quickly lose its flavor. Bolting occurs when the temperature gets too high and the plant is left unharvested, so it’s important to harvest at the right time to prevent this.
Don’t worry if this sounds complicated. The following compiles everything you need to know about how and when to harvest broccoli.
The Initial Head
The head is an obvious sign that you can see at a glance. For broccoli to be ready for harvesting, it needs to have its signature head that is firm to touch. This is the surest sign of ripeness, and should be your go to for gauging harvest time.
Check The Florets
Keeping an eye on the floret – or the flower buds – on the plant is a reliable way of checking whether the vegetable is ready for harvest or not. Track the flower bud on the outside edge of the head. Once the floret is the same size as the head, you’ll know that the broccoli is ready for harvest.
There’s no set size that broccoli has to have before it is ready to be harvested. The general ballpark for a broccoli head to reach is usually around ten to eighteen inches. Remember, though, that size alone is not enough. Before you begin, you’ll have to consider the rest of the signs.
Check The color
The color of any plant can let you know a variety of information regarding its health and whether it’s ready for harvest or not. Broccoli is no different. If the plant has a deep green color that’s a good sign that it’s ready to harvest. If you start to see yellow streaks on the plant look to immediately harvest broccoli before it comes inedible.
Harvesting broccoli is easy. The tricky part is usually determining the right time to harvest the plant, but once you’ve identified the timing the rest is very easy. Most gardeners harvest their broccoli between 55 to 150 days after first planting the seed or the saplings, and you may get multiple harvests off a single plant during this time.
The only tool you’ll need to harvest your broccoli is a sharp, sterile knife.. There’s no point in cutting the head off right at the edge of where it meets the stem. Start about 6” above the base, and take a quick cut. This will leave a bit of the stem which may continue to grow depending on how late into the season you are. When making the cut, do so at an angle to help prevent pooling water which can damage your plant.
It’s your choice whether you want to harvest the side shoots. Keep an eye on the abovementioned signs to correctly harvest the broccoli.
Tips For Easier Growth
There are a variety of things we as gardeners can do to help produce larger yields. One easy tip is to start with calabrese seeds when planting. This is a popular broccoli variety that is well know for producing a lot of off-shoots. This leads to more harvestable vegetables than many other broccoli varieties.
Another tip many gardeners follow is to harvest their broccoli in the early mornings. Many will say that the taste is affected by heat, and harvesting too late can dull the flavor of your broccoli.
If you’re having trouble with bolting, try moving your broccoli to a cooler location. Heat is a big cause of bolting, and letting your broccoli get too warm is likely to cause early bolting. Remember, broccoli is a cooler season crop, so look to harvest it before the peak of summer.
Broccoli is a tasty and nutritious plant to add to your dinner table that is also easy to grow and harvest. Keep an eye on the mentioned signs to get as much from the plant as possible, and look to harvest early and often. These signs will let you know when the plant is ready to be harvested, and with a little diligence makes the entire process easy.
How Often Can Broccoli Be Harvested?
How much you can harvest broccoli depends on which variety you’ve planted. But generally speaking, the plant can be harvested twice over three months. Certain varieties that produce lots of off-shoots can be harvested more often.
How Should You Store the Harvested Heads of Broccoli?
Broccoli should be stored as you would any other perishable food item in your fridge. Keep the broccoli away from fruits that release ethylene, such as apples, as this will prematurely over ripen your produce. If you have a vegetable drawer, store your harvested broccoli there.
How To Know That the Broccoli Is Ready for Harvest?
You can keep an eye on the color of the plant and its florets. Once the plant has a deep green color, you can harvest the vegetable. Also, pay attention to the head. A nice round, firm head is a sure sign the plant is ready to be harvested.
Can I Harvest a Broccoli Plant Which Has Turned Yellow?
You can harvest broccoli until it flowers. After that, it becomes inedible. While you can harvest yellow-colored broccoli plants, it may have already begun to taste bitter. If you notice any yellowing, harvest immediately or you risk losing the plant.