When to Pick Broccoli – How to Know When It’s Ready to Harvest

Last Updated on January 21, 2023

Most farmers in their early days of farming find it tricky to know when to pick a broccoli or at what stage it is while growing.

Growing and harvesting broccoli is a rewarding experience that most farmers enjoy. When you grow your broccoli and see the heads forming, you start wondering when to harvest. And what signs you should watch for.

Growing broccoli and obtaining a good harvest of large heads that are ripe takes patience and practice. So if you fail on your first and second attempts, don’t get discouraged, rather keep practicing.

How Do You Know When to Pick Broccoli?

To get the best and most nutritious broccoli, you must be familiar with how to know when to harvest broccoli.  It can be quite tricky to know when broccoli is ready to harvest. One of the reasons that the head of a broccoli plant develops slowly over time and remains on the plant for a long time without any obvious or noticeable changes except for the change in size.

So how do you know that it is time to harvest broccoli? The answer to this question lies at your fingertips. You can know when to harvest your broccoli by touching the head and squeezing it gently. If the head is firm and tightly packed, it’s ready for harvest. If the head is soft and has spaces between the florets with flowers opening, it is past harvest time.

It is best to let your broccoli heads grow to a point where they reach their maximum diameter and then harvest them. All broccoli farmers should avoid letting these edible flowers go past their harvest date, and wasting this great cruciferous vegetable. As soon as you notice the flower heads starting to go yellow, harvest the broccoli immediately to avoid them going bitter.

Certain environmental conditions such as high heat for consecutive days can cause premature or quick flowering in broccoli. The moment you notice the flowering heads starting to develop, it is a good idea to check on them regularly. Did you know that broccoli gives you an extra treat as you wait for the main head to get ready for harvest? You can harvest the outer young leaves when they are about 4 to 6 inches long before the heads are ready. These young leaves have the same tasty flavor as the heads, very delicious when sautéed in oil or butter.



You can start harvesting these young leaves when the main head is still small. This is before it protrudes above the leaves. These small young leaves are best eaten at that time. When the head begins to grow fuller and protrude, the leaves become tougher and lose their flavor.

Remember to pick only a few leaves at a time so as not to harm the plant. Keep harvesting new leaves throughout the season until the heads are ready for picking.

Signs that Show Your Broccoli Is Ready For Harvest

It can be tricky for new farmers to tell if their broccoli is ready or not, so here are a few signs to look out for:

  • The broccoli has a head. This is the most obvious sign to check out for. The ready-to-harvest broccoli must have a firm and tight head.
  • Broccoli head size. A ready broccoli head should measure between 4 to 7 inches in width. Size alone is not an indicator that it is ready; remember the rule of thumb to check if it’s firm enough.
  • Individual floret size. The size of the individual flower buds is the most reliable indicator. Check the florets on the outside edge of the head; they must be the size of the match stick head. This tells you they are ready for picking.
  • Florets color. Ready-to-harvest florets are deep green. Any hint of yellow color means the florets are starting to bloom because they are overgrown. Harvest them immediately if you notice either of the colors. Remember however that broccoli can come in colors such as purple, so remember to check the variety of seeds or seedlings that you plant so that you can know what colors to look out for.

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when to harvest broccoli - Tarvol

What Does Broccoli Look Like Growing?

Broccoli has different growing stages throughout its life cycle that it can complete in a single growing season. Knowing what it should look like at the various stages of growth will also help you know when it is time to harvest. Here are the different growth stages of a broccoli plant and how they look:

  • Germination

This is the first stage where the seed breaks and lets out shoots. Most of this process obviously happens under the soil and so we cannot see what is happening. However, it ends up with a few leaves shooting out of the ground.

  • Seedling stage

At this stage, the broccoli seedling starts to grow a few adult leaves. Over weeks, the seedling will grow a stalk and get more shoots around it. At this stage, it also has a root system.

  • Vegetative growth stage

This is the stage where the broccoli plant grows the most. It can attain a height of 2-3 inches and a width of 2-3 inches. The plant may remain small at this stage. This is because it needs to ensure that it produces enough leaves to provide enough energy for the head when it develops in the later stages. This stage is also energy intensive.

  • Maturation stage

This is the stage where the broccoli focuses its energy on producing the flower or head of the plant. The broccoli head starts small and grows gradually over time. It is at this stage that the broccoli gets ready for harvest. When the head of the broccoli is at the center of the main stalk of the plant, then it is ready to harvest.

When Is It Too Late To pick Broccoli?

If you wait too long to harvest your broccoli, it will bolt or go to flower. You will see this happen by when the green buds start to bloom and produce yellow flowers. When this happens, your broccoli is no longer edible. You should let it go to the flower and collect seeds for the following season.

Conclusion

The best way to know when to pick broccoli is to consult your seed packet for 2 important things. The expected day of maturity and the expected size of the broccoli head. Each variety grows to a different size in about 100 days from the date of planting.

Always mark your calendar when you plant your broccoli to give you an estimated date of harvest. Also observe your broccoli over this time to see when it is ready to pick, using the guidelines provided in this article. That’s the easiest way for any farmer to know when the broccoli is ready for harvest.

FAQs

What are the signs that broccoli is ready to be picked?

Broccoli is a cool season vegetable that is best harvested in the fall. The plants are very tough and will bolt to flower if not harvested. To know when broccoli should be harvested, you need to know when it is at its prime and ready to be picked. In order to know when to harvest broccoli, you must have a good idea of the growth stages of this plant.

Here is a basic description of how broccoli grows.

Broccoli is ready to harvest once it has reached its full maturity. This can be determined by looking for the following signs:

Broccoli Heads – When broccoli heads are formed, they are ready to harvest. The heads are the same size and shape as mature broccoli florets.

Broccoli Leaves – You can tell when broccoli is ready to harvest by looking for leaves that are beginning to yellow. Once broccoli has reached its maturity stage, the yellowing of the leaves should begin.

Broccoli Stems – You can harvest broccoli when the stems are at least 10 inches long. The stem should be straight and firm. If you are picking broccoli in the summer, the stems should be less than 10 inches long.

Broccoli Heads – You can tell when broccoli heads are ready to harvest by looking for the heads that are the same size and shape as mature broccoli florets.

How many times can you harvest broccoli?

You can harvest broccoli up to three times every three months, which is good news if you like the idea of growing your own food and saving money on your grocery bills.

Where can yo grow broccoli?

Broccoli is a cool-season crop, meaning it will start growing in the spring and fall. It can be grown from seed, transplanted, or started indoors. If you are starting from seed, it takes about four weeks to germinate. Transplants can be planted in early spring as soon as the ground thaws. To get your plants started indoors, purchase bare root plants, or start seedlings in flats in a propagator.

How big does broccoli need to be in order to harvest it?

It’s an easy-to-grow crop. Broccoli will grow in the spring and fall. It can be harvested as a young crop once the plant is about 3 inches tall. When the plant is ready to harvest, cut off the head. The stalk will begin to grow again, so you may want to wait a few weeks before harvesting again. The plant can be left in the ground for another harvest.

How do you harvest broccoli so it keeps growing?

You can either cut the stem off or just leave the head of broccoli alone. You won't be able to harvest broccoli for a long time after you cut the stem. But if you leave it alone, it will keep growing and producing more heads.

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