Broccoli is a member of the brassica family and has a distinctive 'mustardy' taste. While the heads are normally eaten, the stalks and leaves are also edible (just be sure to adjust cooking times). Look out for broccolini and baby broccoli as alternatives.
Broccoli should have dark or bright green closed florets with a cleanly cut stalk. There should be no yellow florets nor discolouration on the stem bracts. Shelf life varies from 12 to >25 days depending on cultivar.
Postharvest storage temperature
A temperature of 0°C is required to optimise broccoli storage life (21–28 days). Heads stored at 5°C can have a storage life of 14 days. Temperature management during distribution is more critical than with iced broccoli. It will freeze if stored below -0.6°C. Frozen and thawed areas on the florets appear very dark and translucent, may discolour after thawing and are very susceptible to bacterial decay.
Controlled atmosphere storage
Modified atmosphere storage maintains the quality of broccoli after harvest. Most modified atmosphere packaging for broccoli is designed to maintain O2 at 3–10% and CO2 at about 7–10% to avoid the development of undesirable off-odor volatiles.
Broccoli is extremely sensitive to ethylene exposure. Floret yellowing is the most common symptom. Exposure to 2ppm ethylene at 10°C reduces shelf life by 50%.
Store at >95% relative humidity.
Disease & infection
Various soft-rot causing organisms may affect shelf-life. Rots due to these organisms are usually associated with physical injury. Although not as common, grey mould rot and black mould can infect heads; this may occur under rainy and cool growing conditions.
Eat broccoli raw for the greatest nutritional benefit. Consider using the stem as well as the head—slice it up and cook with the florets.