Harvesting broccoli is best done while the main head is young, as its tenderness is retained. Once the broccoli plant begins to form a head, it should be watched daily. Sometimes the broccoli will form nice 7-8 inch heads like you see in the grocery store, but some will only be 2-3 inches wide when they will need to be harvested, so you have to check them frequently.
If the head starts to turn yellow or begins to loosen, then you need to harvest the broccoli immediately. If you wait too long, the plant will go to flower and the main head will be inedible (see photo to the right for an example of broccoli gone to flower....though you can still remove the head and wait for the side shoots to develop, so all is not lost.)
Harvest the main head by using a sharp knife to cut the main stem on an angle about 4-6 inches below the main head. Make sure to cut on an angle, otherwise water will pool in the stem and rot the plant.
After harvesting broccoli, allow the plant to continue growing and within a week or two the plant will begin sending out small heads from the leaves axles. These heads will be small, roughly 1-4 inches in size, but can continue for up to 6 weeks.
Cleaning Your Broccoli Heads
Broccoli is frequently plagued by caterpillars and worms, so it is essential that you clean it properly after it is harvested. Bring your broccoli indoors and soak it in a water bath that is 1 part salt to 5 parts water, using cold or warm water. Soak the broccoli for approximately 25 minutes and then rinse it under fast moving water.
I find it best to go ahead and cut the broccoli into small florets before soaking it in the water. This allows the caterpillars to fall entirely out of the broccoli and to the bottom of the sink. If you choose to leave your broccoli in large heads, made sure to check that all the worms have fallen out of the head before you cook with it.
If not cooking with it immediately, then dry the broccoli and put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. It can also be
in boiling water for three minutes or in steam for 5 minutes and then frozen for up to 10 months.
For more information on growing broccoli, please select one of the links below: