How to Tell If Your Broccoli Is Bad

Spoiled broccoli doesn't taste good—and it can make you sick. We'll teach you how to tell if broccoli is bad, along with a few storage tips to make the most of your broccoli.

Broccoli is one of my staple vegetables. It always has been! When I was a kid, I was an extremely picky eater, but somehow broccoli made the cut. Maybe it had something to do with my dad telling me broccoli dipped in ranch looked like snow-topped trees. As an adult, I’m a much more adventurous broccoli cook, enjoying roasted broccoli topped with Parm or lightly charred grilled broccoli. It’s fantastic as a side dish, pureed into broccoli soup, baked into a cheesy broccoli casserole or tossed in a pasta primavera.

Of course, eating spoiled broccoli is not recommended. It will not only taste and smell kind of nasty, but it can also make you sick. If you don’t know how to tell if broccoli is bad, or the best ways to store broccoli to extend its life, read on to find out.

Signs Your Broccoli Has Gone Bad

There are several ways to identify spoiled food, including sight, smell and texture. Use these cues to tell if your broccoli is no longer good to eat.

Visual Appearance and Color

Does the broccoli look appetizing—or is there something off about it? It might look limp, discolored or wrinkled, all signs that broccoli is going bad. You don’t want to see off colors, either. Broccoli should be green, so it’s a bad sign if the florets turn yellow or brown. If there are any visible mold spots, or if the broccoli looks mushy, it’s definitely time to toss the bunch.

Aroma

It’s never a good sign if you’re greeted with a nasty odor when you open the refrigerator. Broccoli should have a very light aroma, smelling fresh and vegetal. If it’s strongly sulfuric, or it smells generally unpleasant, it may be past its prime.

Texture

Broccoli stems should be firm, and the florets should be crisp. If the stalk feels limp or soft, it’s a sure sign of a bad bunch. The same goes for the florets. Once they start to wilt, it’s only a matter of time before the broccoli needs to be tossed. Pay attention to the moisture level, too. You don’t want a dry and cracked stem, and a sure sign of spoilage is when the bottom of the stem is wrinkled and shriveled.

How to Pick the Best Broccoli at the Store

The best way to ensure your broccoli doesn’t go bad is to pick a good bundle at the store. Look for dark green broccoli tops with tightly closed buds. The stalk should be firm and strong, without any brown or yellow streaks, and the cut end of the stem should look fresh.

If the broccoli stalk is limp and the crowns are wilted, or the flowers are yellowing or browned, the broccoli is already on its way to going bad. Any signs of mushy tops or strong odors should be avoided as well.

How to Store Broccoli to Make It Last Longer

How to store broccoli in the fridge

The best way to store broccoli is in a plastic bag in the crisper bin. That said, broccoli needs air to remain its best, so wrapping it tightly is a produce mistake. Store it in a loose, open bag to promote air flow, or poke a bunch of holes in a tighter-fitting bag. When stored properly, broccoli should last up to a week in the fridge.

Moisture also causes spoilage, so wait to wash the broccoli until right before its used. Yes, we’ve all seen vegetables being misted at the grocery store, but that’s because it’s surrounded by air that can dry it out. In a bag, excess moisture will cause the broccoli to mold. If your broccoli is very wet, pat it dry with paper towels. You can also store it lightly wrapped with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Finally, make sure you don’t store broccoli with fruits and vegetables that emit ethylene gas, like apples, bananas or tomatoes (not that you should be storing bananas or tomatoes in the fridge, anyway). Brassicas like broccoli and cabbage are ethylene sensitive, absorbing that excess ethylene and expiring more quickly than normal.

How to freeze broccoli

Broccoli freezes exceptionally well, but it must be blanched first. Blanching sets the color and texture, keeping broccoli from getting limp as it thaws. Cut the broccoli into manageable pieces and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and stems to the water, in batches if necessary, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the broccoli is bright green. Remove the pieces to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Pat the broccoli dry and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. When the broccoli is frozen, transfer it to a freezer-safe bag and store for up to a year.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.