So you have been growing your broccoli for about three months—now what?
When it comes to harvesting your broccoli, there are lots of different considerations. Are you working with a varietal that will grow back? When is the best time to make the cut? After it’s out of the ground, how should you best store it?
Consider this your definitive how-to guide on harvesting any and all broccoli you are growing in your home vegetable garden.
When To Harvest Broccoli?
After planting your broccoli in the early spring, you should be prepared to harvest your broccoli between 55 and 150 days after planting, depending on if you start with seeds or saplings. You’ll want to wait until the central head is hard and a deep green. If you start to see flower buds starting to develop, you may have waited too late.
Broccoli is a member of the Brassica oleracea family, a group of cruciferous vegetables rich in calcium and vitamin A that do well in partial shade. This family also includes Brussels sprouts, radishes, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Broccoli itself is a biennial grown as a cool-season annual. It is a cool-season crop that prefers a late spring growing season.
Structurally, broccoli grows with a thick central stalk (sometimes multiple) and lots of hardy sides shoot leaves. The central stalks of the broccoli are what we are most used to enjoying. It begins as a hearty head before turning into lots of tiny yellow flower buds. We typically eat it before the flowering process, so, when growing, you’ll want to time your harvest correctly.
Broccoli likes cool weather and needs to be grown so that it’s fully mature by the time temperatures average about 80° Fahrenheit.
During the grow, broccoli prefers temperatures between 45°F and 75°F. It can tolerate temperatures as low as 20° and a light frost.
Grow Pro Tip: Don’t allow your broccoli to freeze and avoid heat! Too cold or too warm of weather will cause your broccoli to go to seed without forming heads.
To harvest in early spring/summer, start broccoli seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the last frost. Transplant seedlings to the outdoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost in springs.
For a late autumn/early winter harvest, start seeds indoors in late summer. Then, sow transplants outside in autumn.
To learn more, check out our complete guide to growing broccoli in your home vegetable garden.
Broccoli Growing Stages
Broccoli has 5 fairly distinct growing stages. Being able to identify each growing stage as it occurs will help you as you grow broccoli — especially in knowing when to harvest.
The first stage is seed development. After you plant broccoli seeds take about 1-2 weeks to germinate. While in this stage, keep seeds indoors and in a preferably warm area — around 80° F.
Once the seeds have germinated, you have 3-4 weeks of seedlings development. Here, they develop roots and their first leaves. Once you see the seedling emerge from the soil, reduce the temperature to 60° – 65° F. Keep indoors until 4 weeks old.
Sow seeds and transfer the young plants outdoors. In this stage, broccoli develops a stalk and mature leaves. Then, the flowering top we associate with broccoli. For the next 55 – 65 days, they will continue to mature. Water regularly according to the care instructions above.
Time to Harvest
Once the plants have developed into the tight green buds you find at the grocery store, your broccoli heads are ready to harvest. The heads are usually best harvested when 6-8 inches across and compact. Harvest according to the instructions below.
I Waited Too Long, Now What?
If you wait too long to harvest your broccoli plant, it will to bolt, or go to seed. This is when the tight green buds bloom and produce yellow flowers. Once the flowers open, your broccoli is no longer edible. If you let your broccoli go to seed, collect the seeds for next year.
How To Harvest Broccoli
If growing from seeds, your broccoli will be ready to harvest in about 100-150 days. If growing from transplants, your broccoli will be ready to harvest in 55-80 days.
Harvest when the buds are a dark green color and tight. They will looks like ‘trees’ — just like you see in the grocery store although the heads may be generally smaller. The buds should be tightly closed. If you see the buds beginning to open, harvest immediately!
Opening buds mean they’re about to bloom into the yellow flowers, which makes broccoli inedible.
When it’s harvest time, take a sharp knife to the main head, leaving about 5-6 inches of stem. Cut the stalk at a slant so the water will slide off — water can pool and rot the center of the stalk, ruining any secondary heads.
Try to harvest in the morning before the plant heats up. This will ensure the best taste.
Secondary heads will continue to mature; encourage growth by adding nitrogen-rich fertilizer around the base. Then, once secondary shoots are mature, repeat the harvesting process with them.
How To Get More Broccoli From Your Harvest
If you want to grow broccoli that lasts beyond a single harvest, consider choosing Calabrese seed packets at the nursery. This varietal is one that will keep growing after the central heads of broccoli are cut, meaning that you an expect another bountiful harvest about two months after your initial cutting. Take care not to cut any other part of the plant except for the central head, and care for your plant as you normally would. You can also do this with broccolini and purple broccoli!
Harvesting Broccoli By Variety
As mentioned above, broccoli should be harvested differently depending on the broccoli variety. Here’s your guide to making the most of your harvest, no matter which type of broccoli you chose to grow.
Pick your broccoli Romanesco before the buds start to separate. When it starts to separate, you open the plant up to aphid infestation. Take a sharp knife to the base of the stalk and cut at an angle.
When harvesting purple broccoli, you’ll want to take a sharp knife to the base of the stalk and cut at an angle. This will encourage further side shoots to develop for your next harvest.
Calabrese broccoli can be harvested multiple times. Look out for when the large head is full of tight, dark green buds, then remove it with a sharp knife at the base of its main stalk. If you leave the outer leaves and side shoots, you can expect another harvest in around two months. If you see flower heads on the head of the veggie, you have waited too long.
Baby broccoli, or broccolini, can be harvested about 60 to 90 days after planting, when the heads are just beginning to form and the leaves are turning a deep green. Take a sharp knife to the base of the stalk and cut it at an angle. If you wait until the broccoli leaves are yellow, you have waited too long.
How do you harvest Broccoli so it keeps growing?
If you want to make the most of your broccoli plant, harvest the central heads in a way that allows them to keep on growing. Broccoli can be harvested two to three times over a period of three months. Not all broccoli varieties are able to be harvested over and over again, so make sure you are choosing the right type when you start your growing process for the first time.
How Many Times Can You Harvest Broccoli?
You can harvest your broccoli around two to three times over a period of around three months depending on which varietal you choose to grow.
How to Store Your Fresh Broccoli Harvest
Once you have harvested your broccoli, you’ll want to be sure to store it in a way that makes it lasts as long as possible.
What are the common ways of storing your Broccoli harvest?
Store your freshly harvested broccoli in the fridge for about a week. It can be stored unwrapped in the crisper drawer, preferably away from fruits that release ethylene (like apples). If your crisper is full, store the head near the back of the fridge where it’s coldest.
Alternatively, broccoli can be broken into florets, blanched in boiling water, thoroughly dried and then frozen for up to 3 months.
Broccoli Recipes We Love!
Once you get your broccoli out of the ground, you won’t be able to resist cooking it up. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy fresh broccoli:
Our Grow Pros Most Frequently Asked Questions
Take a sharp knife to the base of the stalk, and cut at an angle so that you can encourage further side shoots to develop. Don’t touch the broccoli leaves or other sprouts and focus on cutting just the central head.
You can plan on harvesting broccoli two to three times during a three-month period, depending on the variety.
Broccoli heads will be dark green and semi-solid when they are ready to be harvested. If they start developing yellow flowers, you have waited too long.
Depending on the variety, broccoli will grow back after the central head is cut. Try growing Calabrese or purple broccoli or broccolini.
Store your freshly harvested broccoli in the fridge for about a week. Alternatively, blanch and then freeze for up to 3 months.
Broccoli and cauliflower are both members of the Brassica family. Broccoli is green and cauliflower is white.
All the spaces between the buds of broccoli can be a good space for critters to burrow. Be sure to give it a really good wash before digging in.
Yes! Give it a good wash and enjoy.
Start Growing Your Own Broccoli!
We can’t wait to see your broccoli! Show us your harvest on social media, and be sure to tag Gardenuity.