Broccoli is an incredibly healthy vegetable and fairly easy to grow, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be problems. One of the potential problems is the broccoli turning yellow, which makes it look less delicious and can be an indicator that there is a weather, nutrient or temperature problem.
The good news is that you can still eat broccoli that has turned yellow and still enjoy its nutritional benefits. If you’re curious about why broccoli turns yellow and what to do about it, keep reading.
Why broccoli florets turn yellow
Here are the top causes of yellow florets on broccoli heads. Find out why this happens and what to do about each problem.
1. The natural ageing process
The natural aging process affects the color of your broccoli, and this is one vegetable that seems to go bad quickly. The older the broccoli gets, the more the chlorophyll pigment which gives the veggie its green color will break down.
This happens quickly when the broccoli has been picked. The broccoli can also start to turn yellow on the plant if it has been left there for too long.
As a result, the broccoli will quickly turn from green to yellow, and you might even see specks of yellow on different parts of the plant, including the stalk and the florets. As the chlorophyll is breaking down, a pigment called xanthophylls becomes more prominent.
Xanthophylls is a type of carotenoid that gives certain foods their yellow and orange color. It becomes a lot more visible due to the breakdown in chlorophyll, causing the broccoli to turn a yellowish color.
In most cases, broccoli will turn yellow when it’s “past its prime,” so to speak, meaning when it gets old.
2. Environmental Factors
Environmental stressors such as extreme weather changes, poor soil, winds, and water inconsistency can cause broccoli florets, to turn yellow. While stress can be caused by diseases, pests, and other scenarios that compromise the plant’s health, environmental factors are the most common.
Some of these environmental factors include:
- Too much or too little rain
- Too much or too little sun
- Too much or too little fertilizer
- Pest infestation
- Sudden temperature changes
- Nutrient deficiencies
Any type of stress, including environmental stress, essentially speeds up the aging process in most plants, similar to what it does in animals. When broccoli is stressed, the breakdown of chlorophyll speeds up and therefore causes broccoli to turn yellow before it should.
Broccoli is safe to eat when it turns yellow, although it could possibly taste more bitter than it does when it’s green. For that reason, it’s a good idea to cut off the yellow parts and eat only the green parts.
If you notice that your broccoli is starting to turn yellow, go ahead and eat it as quickly as you can. This means that you can eat it before more of the green head starts to turn yellow.
3. You have overcooked your broccoli
A bright green broccoli head can turn yellow if it is overcooked. Regardless of how you choose to cook your broccoli, it normally doesn’t take long for this nutritious veggie to cook. For the best results, cook your broccoli only until it is tender but not so long that it’s mushy.
Overcooking broccoli does two things: it breaks down the chlorophyll and gives it a yellow appearance, and it reduces the nutritional benefits of the vegetable.
While some people like eating broccoli that’s a little on the soft side, it’s a lot healthier to eat and looks much greener if you cook it only until it’s tender and no longer.
How to Prevent Broccoli Florets From Turning Yellow
Believe it or not, you can increase the likelihood of having crisp, green broccoli and prevent it from turning yellow. The first thing you’ll want to do is pick it out of your garden at the right time then eat it immediately.
If you don’t eat your broccoli immediately, wrap it in some plastic wrap and place it in your refrigerator, and aim to eat it within three or four days.
If you know that you won’t be able to eat the broccoli right away but you still want to keep it for later, simply clean it, blanch it, let it cool, and then place it in an airtight freezer bag before placing it in the freezer. If you do this, you can take the broccoli out of the refrigerator later on and finish cooking it before you eat it.
This will stop the broccoli from turning yellow before you eat it.
There are a lot of things you can do with fresh broccoli, and it won’t matter if it’s been in the freezer for a little while as long as you prepare it properly before you freeze it.
And the bottom line is this: even if you just picked the broccoli fresh from your garden but it tastes funny when you put it in your mouth, there’s no harm in simply throwing it away.
While it won’t harm you, it will have fewer nutrients in it and will likely taste bitter, so starting over and picking other heads of broccoli might be better for you.
The main reason why broccoli starts to turn yellow is the breakdown of chlorophyll, and the fact that xanthophyll, which gives foods a yellowish-orange color, becomes more prominent. If you under-water it, over-water it, or give the plant too much or too little fertilizer, this can cause stress to the plant and cause it to turn yellow.
The smartest thing you can do when growing your broccoli is to make sure you give it the right amount of sun, the right amount of water, and the right amount of fertilizer.
Broccoli is not difficult to grow, but there are still rules that have to be followed for it to turn out just right. Most importantly, learn all you can about growing broccoli so that you can recognize problems in the plants before they become too big to do anything about.
For more on broccoli, check out this article: Broccoli Florets Turning Brown | 3 Causes and How to Fix Them
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.