“Heading” brassicas refers to members of the brassica family that form densely clustered leaves or flowers that are eventually harvested. This includes: cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Harvesting times and techniques will vary depending on the type and variety of plant. Some brassicas will produce one single head, while others will produce side shoots after the main floret is harvested.
Heading Cauliflower and Broccoli
Cauliflower will only produce one head. Once this head is harvested, the plant should be removed. Some types of broccoli will also only produce one head, although many will produce smaller offshoot florets once the center head is harvested. For heading broccoli or cauliflower, harvest the center head when the florets start to loosen. When these buds swell, it means your plant is getting ready to bolt and produce a flower. Don’t worry, flowering heads are completely edible. Use the peppery, bright yellow flowers to garnish any dish.
Need more guidance with your broccoli? Check out this quick video on how and when to harvest your broccoli. The same tips apply to cauliflower!
Sprouting broccoli produces many smaller florets as opposed to a large central head. Cut the first floret shortly after it forms, this will stimulate side florets to grow. If the central floret is allowed to grow it can reduce the overall yield of the plant. After the first floret is harvested, check the plant every few days for side shoots. Harvest side shoots when they are about 4 inches in long.
Broccoli raab grows similar to sprouting broccoli, first producing a single floret and then more as you harvest. When called for in recipes, broccoli raab includes the florets, stems and leaves of the plant. Harvest your broccoli raab by cutting the floret stem 2-3 nodes (node: where the leaf meets the main stem) down from the top of the plant. Broccoli raab is more intense in flavor than other green broccolis. It’s bitterness lends well to creamy pasta dishes, and with other bold flavors like lemon or vinegar, and garlic. Need recipe inspiration? Try out one of our Avalow favorite recipes starring broccoli raab.
Broccoli bitter? Although the bitter tasting components are often the healthiest ones, cook your broccoli head if you find it is too bitter when raw.
Waste Not, Want Not
Make the most of your broccoli plants by harvesting and utilizing the whole plant. One serving of broccoli contains 220% of your daily vitamin C and is also a significant source of protein, fiber, and vitamins A and B-6. Broccoli (especially purple varieties) are high in antioxidants and various plant compounds like sulphorane, that can provide health benefits. Harvest the lower leaves of your broccoli plant as it grows, which will provide more light and space to lower growing plants in your garden. Learn how to butcher your whole broccoli plant (and how to save it for later).