How to harvest broccoli – and maximize this easy-to-grow crop

Discover how to harvest broccoli for a crop that’s delicious and vitamin-rich

calabrese broccoli on a chopping board
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finding out how to harvest broccoli is essential for making the most of a lovingly raised homegrown crop. 

It is surprisingly easy to grow broccoli, and it has numerous healthy giving properties but knowing how to harvest broccoli properly is key to obtaining the tastiest most nutritious florets.

‘Regular sowings of broccoli can provide crops from late winter through to autumn, depending on sowing time and variety,’ says Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturalist of the RHS. ‘Plants generally take two or three months to start cropping, then provide pickings for about a month.’

How to harvest broccoli

Once you've mastered when to plant broccoli, the next learning is harvesting it for best flavor. This is how.

1. Harvest broccoli in the morning

For the best tasting crop harvest broccoli early in the morning before the soil warms up. A plant with a high respiration rate, the water contained in the stem that harbors the plant sugars, tends to evaporate quickly as the air temperature rises causing the crop to lose flavor. By harvesting in cool conditions and then immediately refrigerating you can preserve these delicious sugars and prevent the florets from becoming limp.

2. Cut the broccoli at the right point

When it comes to your broccoli harvesting technique, it’s all pretty simple. 

‘Cut the crown portion of the broccoli with 5 to 6 inches (12.5-15 cm) of stem, after it’s fully developed, but before it begins to loosen and separate and the individual flower start to develop into bright yellow blooms,’ say the team at West Coast Seeds

‘Removing the central head stimulates regrowth to develop for later pickings. Cutting the head lower on the stem will encourage fewer, but larger side-shoots. The regrowth portion grows from the base of the lower leaves. You can usually continue to harvest broccoli for several weeks.’ 

3. Prepare to store broccoli

As a guide unwashed broccoli can last in the refrigerator for three to five days, while blanched broccoli can be frozen for between six to 12 months. 

How many times can you harvest a broccoli plant?

Each broccoli plant will provide two or three croppings. The main stem – with its single dense blue-green head of tightly packed buds – is the first to mature, followed by two or three successions of smaller side stems. 

Do you need to pinch out side-shoots?

It is possible to nip out the side stems of a growing broccoli plant to divert energy into a larger central head, but it’s not essential and will result in one single crop.

When is the best time to harvest broccoli?

When to harvest broccoli? Kelly Funk, President at Park Seed says, ‘once the head is fully developed, but before the individual flowers start to open, cut the central head along with 5 or 6 inches of stem. Removing the central head will stimulate development of the side shoots, which will allow you to continue your harvest for several weeks.’

Jill Morgan
Contributing Editor

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.