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When to Harvest Broccoli

Text & photos Anne K Moore

Successful vegetable growing has to be followed by harvesting at the peak of flavor. After all, that is one of the primary reasons for growing at home. Taste is everything.

Broccoli is a cool season vegetable and will quit producing and try to go to seed as soon as the weather warms up.

Green broccoli florets

Steamed broccoli florets.

Broccoli florets should be cut off as a whole head just below where it fills out on the stalk. You will notice small, even tiny little side shoots below the primary first head.

Leave these and soon you will have filled out florets to harvest. As you harvest, leave any immature sprouts. You can harvest broccoli for a long period, often a month if the weather doesn’t do a quick turn-around from cool to hot.

Once you have them in the kitchen, rinse off the head and cut  it into bite size florets. A quick steaming, just a few short minutes, is all it takes to bring broccoli to the table. Serve it up when it is bright green and fork tender. You can add cheese or butter or just serve it plain. Delicious!

Broccoli florets comparison between harvest ready and past its prime.

Left-harvest ready, right-past prime

Once the air heats up, the broccoli will start to bolt, which is the word we use for going to flower. Even when the florets are swelling into buds, the taste will not be as good as when they are tight. Once the blossoms open, the broccoli is past its prime and anything you harvest from that plant will be bitter.

Bolted broccoli

Blooming Broccoli

If you are not replanting a summer crop right away in the same spot, leave the blooming plants. Pollinators will be happy for the early meals.