July 20, 2017
Garden Broccoli
Celeste Longacre


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Broccoli has many followers and also abundant detractors.

For those who have only tasted the supermarket variety, I can surely understand the lack of enthusiasm expressed when this topic is raised.

However, for those of us who garden, broccoli is terrifically tasty as well as a trouper in the veggie patch.

This sturdy plant begins by giving us a large head which needs to be trimmed and eaten before it becomes a flower.

It’s important to slice the stem on an angle. This allows any subsequent rain or watering to slide harmlessly down the side. If it is trimmed flat, water can pool on top and begin to rot the center thereby ruining the future crops which broccoli is waiting to deliver. Several days later you can return to the plant to see two, slightly smaller heads peeking up at you. Slice these off (again on an angle) and in another few days, there will be four even smaller heads to harvest. This process continues—with the heads getting tinier and tinier—until well after the first few frosts.

I like to freeze my broccoli. I start by washing it well and cutting it into large pieces. These will be taken out during the dormant months and made into broccoli over toast with a cheesy sauce or added to baked chicken or pot roast. Some of it will be cut slightly smaller so that it can be added to chicken or steak stir fries. The very small heads that come later will be used in quiches.

I place the broccoli in the top of a steamer and steam them for 3 minutes. Often, I will use tongs partway through and move the large stems around so that all of them get some heat.

I use my salad spinner next. I fill the base with cold water and add a bunch of ice. Putting the basket on top of the ice, I slip the steamed broccoli into the basket to cool it down.

Next, I spin the broccoli to get off the extra water and place it carefully in bags.

Here’s a photo of two bags of large broccoli for us, one for company and one for a stir-fry.

I always plant marigolds right in the beds with all of the brassicas (broccoli’s family). This greatly helps to keep the cabbage moth away. I didn’t find a single small, green worm when I harvested this broccoli. Otherwise, these worms can make a mess of the crop and render it unappetizing.

See more about growing and harvesting broccoli.

About This Blog

Celeste Longacre has been growing virtually all of her family’s vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens. Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer’s Almanac as their astrologer and gardens by the Moon. Her new book, “Celeste’s Garden Delights,” is now available! Celeste Longacre does a lot of teaching out of her home and garden in the summer. Visit her web site at for details.

Reader Comments

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Triming broccoli

My broccoli is taking up more room than I thought and the leaves are getting so big that they are starting to go over into the other vegetables I have planted. Will it hurt the broccoli if I cut some of the bigger leaves off on the bottom?

I don’t know for sure, but I

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it might. You need to weigh the benefits of your other veggies with the potential benefits of the broccoli. It will probably make the broccoli smaller.


My plants are going to seed before they get a good head. Others are developing a bunch of small but not solid heads on the same stalk. What am I doing wrong? Live in Pacific Northwest in the coastal foothills. Weather has not been hot and I have been watering.

bolting broccoli

I'm having the same problem with my broccoli and this is the 2nd year in a row it has happened! After the first year, I thought perhaps it was too hot (last summer here in the PNW) so this year I planted in an area that is slow to sun but still gets 6-8 hrs or fairly sunny exposure.

Can someone please tell us whats going wrong? I adore broccoli and really don't care for the store bought veggies anymore...thanks!

Bolting Broccoli

Broccoli normally bolts due to sudden changes in temperature, but nutrient deficiencies can also cause the plant to bolt. Contact your local Cooperative Extension office, which should be able to do a soil test for you to see if your soil is missing any key nutrients. 

Additionally, adding mulch around the plants will help to keep weeds at bay and keep the plants cooler. Check out our Broccoli Growing Guide for more advice!

When to remove brocolli plants

Hello, I grew brocolli for the first time this year. I am in Southern California. Out of 5 plants, one died quickly and 4 have done well. I have been harvesting Spears for 3 weeks. Right now I have large green leafy plants with empty stalks.

If I am reading this correctly it's time for a nitrogen boost, say blood meal. What can I expect next and when do I remove the plants for either composting or disposal? One has gone to seed so I will harvest them for next year. I can get a second crop in this spring g hopefully. The taste was amazing.

When to Remove Broccoli Plants

Hi Beth,

We’re glad to hear about your success with growing broccoli! You are correct, and you can remove the plants anytime now (except the one that has gone to seed). There’s no reason to keep them in the ground if you want to remove them. They would be great additions to the compost pile. Thanks for writing!

How does one trim broccoli to

How does one trim broccoli to encourage it to flourish in the first place? I had a few go to seed because I didn't catch them in time (made lovely "broccoli bonsai", and an abundance of seeds to try next year...). Now I have another few that are just showing the smallest floret at the very top, surrounded by broad green leaves. How much further do I let it go before trimming, to encourage more growth? For what it's worth, I'm up in the Pacific Northwest just outside of Seattle and we've had a record dry spell here.

That's the exact blog post I

That's the exact blog post I was replying to. :) What I'm asking is how to tell when a floret is big enough to divide up, to start the process of making it more like food....

Let the top florets grow

The Editors's picture

Let the top florets grow until they are nice and big but still firm and green. See photo at top of this page.

love all your vegetable tips.

love all your vegetable tips. I especially love broccoli and a local restaurant does it so well they feature it. Love the almanac. Sallypat


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