Few produce items have a longer season than one of our sturdy old stand-bys: broccoli. Available in peak form from October through April—when many other items can’t handle the low temperatures—you can find fresh broccoli in your supermarket year-round.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) is low in calories yet packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and manganese, and delivers a surprising amount of protein for a vegetable (2 grams per 1 cup), according to the USDA’s FoodData Central nutrition database. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that’s a member of the cabbage family, and as such, shares a lot of attributes with cauliflower. Both the stalks and the florets are edible.
Broccoli is usually found in its deep-green glory in the produce aisle alongside cauliflower. If you’re lucky, you might also spy purple broccoli or romanesco, too; the latter is a cross of broccoli and cauliflower and is one of our favorite vegetables for stunning sheet pan side dishes.
Once you score a head of broccoli, it’s important to master how to wash broccoli. Like all fresh fruits and vegetables, broccoli can land in your kitchen carrying some contaminants, pests, or pesticides. Broccoli ranks in about the middle of the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Pesticides in Produce List, falling at number 22; not part of the “dirty dozen.” Broccoli, like its cousin cabbage, emits a plant compound called glucosinolates that naturally helps to deter bugs. Still, it may be sprayed with pesticides and has almost definitely been touched by other shoppers or grocery store staff members, so it’s important to clean broccoli before you use it. Study up on the best time in the cooking process to wash broccoli to help it last, and discover the three best ways to wash broccoli. We’re also dishing about how to store broccoli to maximize its lifespan.
How to Clean Broccoli Three Ways
Before you proceed with any of these methods for how to wash broccoli, it’s worth noting the ideal timing to do so. The USDA recommends washing produce just before you plan to use it to slow spoilage. If you need to rinse your broccoli a day or more in advance, be sure to give it a whirl through the salad spinner or dry it thoroughly with a clean towel before storing it in your refrigerator. (You can find more broccoli storage tips below our guide to how to wash broccoli.)
Once you have your full head(s) of broccoli in your kitchen, round up a cutting board, a paring knife, and a chef’s knife. Trim off about 1 inch from the bottom of the stem and discard that portion, as it might be dry. Use a paring knife to remove any leaves or tough skin on the stalks, if desired, then use the chef’s knife to slice and separate the head from the stalks. Chop the stalks into 1-inch pieces, or whatever is called for in your recipe, then chop the head of the broccoli into individual florets.
How to Wash Broccoli Under Running Water
The fastest and easiest option for how to wash broccoli? Give it a rinse! Transfer the cut stalks and florets to a regular round colander or handy over-the-sink colander and position the vegetables under running water; cold or warm—just not scorching hot. Using your hands, gently rustle the pieces around to ensure they all have access to the water or lift them up to place them right under the water flow to check for dirt, insects, or less-than-fresh parts. Once each piece has been rinsed, you’re all set to proceed with your broccoli recipe.
How to Clean Broccoli By Soaking It
The preferred method of the USDA for how to wash broccoli or other harder-to-clean veggies: give it a good soak. Fill a large bowl with cold or warm water. Allow it to soak for 2 minutes, then dump the vegetables into a colander and allow the soaking water to drain away. While it’s still in the colander, give the broccoli a good rinse under running water once more.
How to Wash Broccoli in a Vinegar Solution
If you think your broccoli might have bugs or worms, use the soak method with an additional ingredient. Nope, not those commercially produced washes; the USDA actually advises against using those. Instead, use a pantry staple: vinegar.
Fill a large bowl with 2 ⅔ cups cold or warm water and ⅓ cup white vinegar. Allow it to soak for 2 minutes, then dump the broccoli into a colander. Rinse the vinegar-treated broccoli very well under running water.
How to Buy and Store Broccoli
Heads of fresh broccoli should feel firm to the touch and look dark green (or purple) in color. Store fresh heads of broccoli, ideally unrinsed, in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days. Once the florets begin to yellow or brown, their flavor is affected, so try to use them in their fully-vibrant glory. Compost or discard broccoli if it looks slimy or smells off.
To extend its life, blanch broccoli in boiling water for 3 minutes, rinse with cold water, or dunk in an ice bath, then drain and dry well. Transfer to a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and freeze for at least 6 months. When you’re ready to enjoy your frozen broccoli, use it directly from the freezer in recipes like stir-fries, soups, stews, or pasta dinners, or allow it to thaw overnight in the refrigerator first.