Have you gone into your garden on a hot summer’s day and found your once-perfect broccoli has suddenly shot up scraggly stems that have started to flower?
If so, then your broccoli has bolted, where they start growing tall and flowering can occur early on instead of growing larger heads first.
Bolting or going to seed is a plant’s response to stress, and most plants bolt when the hot weather hits, the hours of daylight lengthen and the ground temperature reaches a certain temperature.
There are several stressors that cause broccoli to bolt or start to flower, but the number one cause is heat. Other causes can be excessive sunlight or other stress on the roots.
So is there a way to keep broccoli from bolting? Let’s explore this in detail and go over cause broccoli plants to bolt, how to delaying broccoli flowers from appearing prematurely, and whether your broccoli is safe to eat after the buds open into tiny yellow flowers.
What Does It Mean When Broccoli “Bolts”?
As broccoli matures, it will flower and produce seed. This is part of the natural cycle of the plant. This should not be confused with bolting, which is the plant’s response to unfavorable growing conditions.
Broccoli will bolt when the plant’s roots become stressed and it goes into emergency response mode to produce seeds for self-preservation.
Signs To Watch For That Your Broccoli Is Starting To Bolt
There are several different indicators that your broccoli has, or is going to, bolt. Here are the main signs of bolt:
Can You Still Eat Broccoli When It Starts To Flower?
Basically, bolting broccoli is not fit to eat. While it is still edible (as are the flowers), the leaves and florets will usually become bitter. The stalks and stems, which are usually so juicy and delicious, will become tough and woody.
But don’t give up all hope. If you catch your bolting vegetables early enough, the broccoli heads might still be good to eat.
They probably won’t be as tasty or nutritious, but if your harvest as soon as signs of bolt are observed, you can probably get a few decent meals out of it.
Can you save a bolted broccoli?
So, is your bolted broccoli good for nothing? On the contrary, bolted broccoli can still benefit your garden by adding beautiful yellow flowers to an otherwise sea of green.
Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds will be drawn by the blossoms, and you might be lucky enough to be able to save your own seeds for next year’s garden (but make sure your variety is not a hybrid first).
When your broccoli starts to bolt, the actual cell structure of the plant changes. Attempting to remove the bolting stems or flowers will simply cause more to take its place. Unfortunately, once the process has started, you cannot stop your broccoli from bolting.
The best solution is prevention.
Will broccoli grow after bolting?
Once your broccoli has bolted, the main head will generally stop growing as all the plants energy is now going into flower and seed production.
However, once you cut the main head (whether it is still edible or not), the plant will start producing side shoots and small florets which will keep growing.
What Causes Broccoli To Bolt?
There are a few things that cause broccoli to bolt. It is important to know the reasons so you can best prevent broccoli from bolting before they are ready to be harvested.
How To Keep Broccoli From Bolting
Here are some tried and true measures you can take that will protect your broccoli from heat and other stressors to keep your carefully cultivated plants from bolting:
It is always sad to see your beautiful vegetable garden turning inedible before your eyes. Hopefully,
you will now be able to notice the signs that your broccoli is starting to bolt so you can harvest it and still eat your slightly-flowering head of broccoli.
Or better yet, you will be able to prevent your broccoli from bolting altogether and enjoy this cool-season vegetable at its peak.
Cameron Jenkins moved from the city to a small farm where he lives with his wife and daughters. The farm is divided between the garden, pastures, hayfields, the start of an orchard, and 13 times as many pets as people. Their farm vision is to grow produce and raise animals in unison with nature. When Cameron is not farming (or writing about it) he spends his time playing with his children, reading, cooking, and napping with his pet pig.