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How And When To Harvest Broccoli For The Best Yield

These are the signs of when to harvest broccoli:

  1. The broccoli head is fully formed and easily recognizable.
  2. The head measures 4 to 7 inches in diameter.
  3. Buds on the outer edge are the size of a head of a match.
  4. Buds are a deep green color and tightly closed.

Is this your first time growing broccoli? Don’t know how or when to harvest it?

I’ll help you out! I didn’t know how to harvest my broccoli the first time around. But with a little bit of trial and error, I have finally figured it out. Now I get to enjoy a tasty and healthy veggie with hardly any waste in my vegetable garden.

I would love to share my tips and tricks with you. Let’s take a look!

The Ins & Outs Of Harvesting Broccoli

5 Signs That It’s Time To Harvest Broccoli 

Cultivating broccoli can be a bit tricky if you are new to it. The best way to learn how to grow and harvest this popular cruciferous veggie is to have a seasoned gardener show you the ropes. But if you don’t have this option available, you can always rely on these signs to tell you when your plant is ready to be picked.

Fully Formed Head

A full grown broccoli head

The most obvious sign that a broccoli plant is ready for harvesting is that it has a fully formed central head. The head should look like a typical broccoli head and should be tight and firm to the touch. 

Good Size Of Head

A good sized broccoli head with a tape measure

The next sign you should look for is the size of the head. Broccoli heads measure about 4 to 7 inches in diameter when they are ready to be picked. But this is just an estimate. Every plant is different, so you shouldn’t harvest on size alone. 

Good Floret Size

A close up of a broccoli head

When you look at broccoli up close, you can see that it is made of hundreds of tiny flower buds. Its flower clusters make a beautiful bouquet when you think about it.  

The easiest and most reliable way to tell your broccoli is ready to be harvested is from the size of these florets. If the florets on the outer side of the central head are the size of a head of a match, you can cut the broccoli from the plant. 

Deep Green Floret Color

A broccoli plant with deep green color of the floret
Image Credit:

The size of the buds is not the only indicator. You should look at the color, as well! The color you should be aiming for is deep green. That’s the optimal shade for optimal taste in my personal experience. 

If you notice yellow flowers appearing, harvest the broccoli immediately. The yellow color means the buds are starting to bloom and possibly bolt. This can leave your broccoli tasting bitter. 

Tightly Closed Florets

A broccoli head with tightly closed florets

A lot of people make the mistake of waiting for florets to start opening. You should do the opposite! Pick broccoli while its buds are still tightly closed.

If you notice them starting to open that means you have waited too long. Don’t let opened buds turn yellow and go to waste. Instead, harvest immediately! 

How To Harvest Broccoli 

Harvesting broccoli head with a knife

Once you notice multiple signs of ripeness on your plant, you can start the harvesting process. Luckily, harvesting broccoli is as easy as harvesting brussels sprouts! But while Brussels sprouts can be simply twisted off the stem, broccoli needs to be cut off with a sharp knife.

Here’s how you do it!

Using a sharp knife, cut the broccoli stem 5 to 6 inches below the base of the head. Remember, both the head and the stem of broccoli are edible. The lower you cut it, the more of it you will get to eat. 

I recommend you cut the broccoli at an angle, so the water doesn’t pool on the remaining stem and cause rotting in the center. Do it with a swift motion of the knife, so you don’t ruin your chances of having side shoots later on. 

I once didn’t use a knife sharp enough and ended up butchering a couple of stems while cutting broccoli heads. I didn’t reap a lot of side shoots that season, which was a bummer. But hey, lesson learned! 

Dark green colored broccoli heads
Image Credit:

Speaking of side shoots, you harvest them the same way as main broccoli heads using a sharpened knife. Since side shoots have a thinner stem, you can cut them with scissors too! Just like the main head of broccoli, side shoots are ready for picking when the flower buds reach the size of a head of a match.

I find that gathering produce in the morning, before the sun heats up the garden, gives the best-tasting fresh broccoli. Yummy! 

Collecting broccoli is easy whether you are growing it in your vegetable garden or in containers. Click here to learn how to grow broccoli in a container!  

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I Waited Too Long To Harvest My Broccoli – Now What?

Fresh sprouts of broccoli

If you missed the opportunity to harvest your broccoli because you were on vacation or simply forgot, don’t worry! You can still make good use of the plant and your hard work hasn’t gone to waste! 

Let your broccoli go to seed! Collect the seeds for the next growing season or grow broccoli sprouts in a jar for a quick vitamin fix

If you don’t feel like collecting broccoli seeds, simply pull the whole plant out of the ground and dump it on your compost pile. Your “missed opportunity” will turn into rich compost for next year’s crop! 


How long does broccoli take to grow?

How long broccoli takes to grow depends on the way it was sown. If you plant broccoli from seed, it will take 100 to 150 days to grow. When planted from a seedling, it takes 55 to 80 days for this cool-season vegetable to reach maturity.

Can you harvest broccoli too early?

You can harvest broccoli too early and end up with a tough veggie on your dinner table. If you harvest broccoli too late, you will end up eating a yellow and bitter-tasting mess. Harvest broccoli when the buds are deep green and the size of a match.

How many times can you harvest broccoli?

You can harvest broccoli 2 to 3 times usually in the span of three months. Your broccoli will first grow a large main head in the center. Once you harvest it, it will grow several side shoots that are smaller in size, but just as tasty.

How long does it take Romanesco broccoli to grow?

It takes just 75 to 100 days to grow Romanesco broccoli from germination. Plant broccoli indoors in the early spring, preferably 4 to 6 weeks ahead of May. May is the prime sowing time for this cool season crop.

How do you know when your broccoli sprouts are ready?

You know when your broccoli sprouts are ready when they grow to about ½ to 1 inch in length. They will reach this length in 4 to 5 days from germinating. It is good to wait for sprouts to start turning green before eating them.

Pay Attention And Stay Confident! 

See, I told you! Collecting broccoli from your veggie garden isn’t difficult at all! All you have to do is pay attention to the plant to notice signs of readiness

The most reliable way of knowing your broccoli is ready for harvesting is to look at the size and color of the flower buds. Don’t let them turn into yellow flowers! Dark green gives the best taste. And remember, stay confident when cutting your broccoli. 
Did you find my organic gardening tips helpful? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to ask me any questions. I would love to hear from you.

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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya's the creative mind behind this blog, sharing her passion for landscaping, gardening and making spaces that nourish the soul. An entrepreneur and writer based in Raleigh, NC, Nadya turns imaginative ideas into inspiration, fueling home and garden dreams. Though Nadya crafts gorgeous posts and photos showcasing lush yards or blooming gardens, the real magic happens behind the scenes where Nadya's partner Brett provides endless support, implementing each vision with care and dedication. Brett's the one ensuring her creative concepts come to life. At heart, Nadya remains an imaginative soul, forever dreaming of whimsical details, vibrant hues and lush landscapes. Each manicured edge or blossoming bloom fuels inspiration, expanding her vision of what's possible in design and life. She shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design in her blog, the one you are visiting right now. If you are interested in the same things, be sure to check it out! Also, follow Nadya on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, and LinkedIn!

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