Why are my broccolis growing out to be bitter? [Reasons & Fixes]

America’s favorite vegetable broccoli (Brassica oleracea), not only has tons of nutritional benefits but can also be used in multiple ways in various cuisines! Soups, salads, pasta, you name a dish and there would be a way to include this power-packed and versatile vegetable in your daily diet! Let us find out here, why are my broccolis growing out to be bitter?

There are various reasons why are your broccolis growing out to be bitter?

  1. Bolting
  2. Drought causing your broccoli plant to turn bitter
  3. Ageing can cause bitterness in broccoli
  4. Temperature and heat causing bitterness in broccoli
  5. Lack of adequate watering or low moisture levels causing bitterness in broccoli
  6. Lack of proper nutrition causing bitterness in broccoli
  7. Overcrowding your broccoli plants can lead to bitterness in broccoli

Steamed, fried, roasted, or boiled, there is no particular way to have broccoli. It can make almost any dish more flavourful and nutritious. But, the last thing you want is your broccoli to be bitter and bring down the taste of your entire dish.

A lot of people go through the same issue of ending up with bitter broccoli, especially when they grow their broccoli in their own garden.

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Homegrown broccolis are usually more likely to end up being bitter in taste as compared to the store brought ones. This is usually because broccoli is a bit tricky vegetable to grow by yourself and if not grown properly it can actually end up being bitter in taste.

 If you are experiencing this problem of getting bitter broccoli every time you try to grow them by yourself then you might think of tackling this issue by simply buying your broccolis from the store. But let’s admit that nothing can beat the goodness of the organically grown broccoli at home.

Why are my broccolis growing out to be bitter?

So next time when you are thinking of growing your own broccoli here is some of the reasons for your broccoli growing out to be bitter, which you can keep in mind in order to reduce or eliminate the chances of getting bitter broccoli.

After all, no one wants to put all their hard work and effort into growing their broccoli just to find out that in the end, they have grown out to the bitter!

1. Bolting

One of the main reasons that can cause bitterness in broccoli is your broccoli plant getting bolted, or going to flower. Bolting is the process when the plant starts to produce flowering stems before the crop is harvested to complete its reproductive cycle.

In simple words, bolting is when the plant will start to flower prematurely, for its survival, under conditions of stress.

Your broccoli plant can start to bolt under conditions of stress. Stress could include conditions of extremely high temperature, or extremely low temperature, drought, insufficient mineral or water, etc.

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2. Drought causing your broccoli plant to turn bitter

Broccoli plants have an extremely low tolerance for drought conditions. Such dry conditions can eventually lead to bolting and cause your broccoli to get bitter. Conditions such as extremely high temperature, too much strong sunlight, and dry air can lead to drought.

3. Ageing can cause bitterness in broccoli

One of the most common reasons for your broccoli plant growing better broccoli head could be because you’re broccoli plant has aged to a certain point where it is mature and ready to produce seeds and reproduce.

In general, a broccoli plant can produce a central head of a size of about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. But that doesn’t mean that the ideal size of a broccoli head has to be around 8 inches. Usually, mature broccoli heads are somewhere between 4 to 6 inches in diameter.

Harvest your broccoli heads when they are deep green in color and the florets are compact and tightly packed.

If you see any signs of yellowness in the broccoli head or florets then harvest them immediately without wasting any further time! Signs of yellowness in broccoli mean that the florets are starting to bolt or get into the flowering stage.

Yellow broccolis are bitter to taste. Broccoli turns yellow when they start to rot and this yellowness occurs due to the breakdown of the pigment called chlorophyll, which gives the broccoli ( and in fact all other green vegetables and leaves) the green color.

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4. Temperature and heat causing bitterness in broccoli

As discussed, too much temperature and heat, as well as strong sunlight, can cause your broccoli plant to bolt and thus, as a result, become bitter.

In fact, heat is the leading cause of broccolis turning bitter. Broccoli, being a cool-season crop, is very likely to turn bitter in the harsh summers.

If you see signs of bolting in your broccoli plant, as a result of too much heat, then immediately harvest your broccoli heads, even if they are still small in size and haven’t grown to their full size.

After all, smaller broccoli heads are better than large but bitter broccoli heads!

Now, this does not mean that broccoli needs very little sunlight for its growth! Of course, it requires a good amount of sunlight for its optimum growth. A minimum of 6 to 7 hours of sunlight is a must for your broccoli plant to grow well.

All you need to make sure that your broccoli plant isn’t exposed to a lot of heat and strong sunlight. If however, you feel that your plant is receiving an excess of strong and direct sunlight, then simply move it to a semi-shaded area if possible to do so.

The ideal temperature to grow broccoli is 18°C to 22°C or 65 to 70°F. If the temperature is in between this range, then you can expect an optimum growth of your broccoli plant.

However, if the temperature is a lot higher than the ideal temperature ( that is 22° C or 70° F) then there are higher chances that your plant will bolt and become bitter or in worse situations, it cannot even survive and eventually die.

Similarly, if the temperature is way below 18° C or 65° F, then again it will become difficult for the plant to survive. It is thus advisable to start planting your broccoli about 6 weeks before the frost-free date.

If you are growing your broccoli plant during the hotter time of the year then make sure to mulch the soil by adding an extra layer of organic or inorganic matter in order to make sure that the roots of your plant remain cooler.

There are a few varieties of broccoli that can grow throughout a wide range of temperatures. One such variety is the ‘Green Magic’ which is specially adapted to be able to grow in a wide range of temperatures.

If you frequently grow broccolis at home, you might have noticed that when grown under cool and moist conditions, the broccolis turn out to be tender and sweet however when grown under hot and right conditions the broccolis become bitter.

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5. Lack of adequate watering or low moisture levels causing bitterness in broccoli

If you have planted your broccoli in purely sandy soil then it is very likely that the soil would not be able to retain water properly. What you can do in such a case is, you can simply add some manure or compost to the soil to increase and improve its water-holding capacity and also improve the soil texture.

Also, adding organic matter like compost or manure also gives the added benefit of improving the nutrition level of the soil, which could also be the leading cause of your broccoli. turning bitter.

Broccoli grows best in soil that has a texture between sandy and clayey loam. It is important to make sure that the soil drains well enough. If the soil does not drain well then you can add some organic matter to it for example manure or compost.

Adding search organic matter to the soil helps improve soil drainage. This process is also known as mulching and it helps to improve the soil texture thereby improving soil drainage.

Thus it is very important to ensure that your soil is not dry at any point and is always moist and damp.

One way to check this would be by checking the soil present a few inches below the surface and seeing if it feels dry or moist. In case it feels dry then immediately water or dampen the soil.

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6. Lack of proper nutrition causing bitterness in broccoli

Broccoli is a heavy feeder. It needs proper nutrition for its optimum growth and development and thus, lack of proper nutrition can also lead to bitterness in your broccoli.

It is important to ensure that the soil in which your growing your broccoli plant is rich in nitrogen. If you are soil lacks nitrogen then you can add nitrogen-rich fertilizer to your soil. Fertilizing the soil every 20 days or 3 weeks can help compensate for the nitrogen deficiency in the soil.

You can also go for natural fertilizers that are rich in nitrogen for example sodium nitrate, blood meal, feather meal, fish meal, hoof, manure, compost, etc.

After adding the fertilizer make sure that you water the soil well.

Now sometimes it is also not about the nutrients present in the soil but improper pH of the soil can also cause bitterness in your broccoli.

Broccolis grow best in soil with a pH range of 6.1 and 6.8, that is, in slightly acidic soil. If the pH level of the soil is less than the ideal pH range then adding some acid composed can help in increasing the pH level. In case the pH level of the soil is above 7 then you can add some granular sulphur in it to decrease the pH.

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7. Overcrowding your broccoli plants can lead to bitterness in broccoli

It might sound weird that overcrowding your broccoli plants can lead to the production of bitter broccoli.

But spacing your broccoli plants inadequately can actually lead to bitter broccolis, because, in such cases where the broccolis are planted very close to each other, they might start competing for space and nutrients, and thus when the broccoli plants don’t get proper and sufficient nutrition, this might cause the broccolis to turn bitter.

What to do in case your broccoli has already turned bitter?

There are definitely a lot of preventive measures that you can take to ensure that your broccoli doesn’t turn out to be bitter, but in case you find out that the broccoli you harvested has actually turned bitter, then you don’t have to worry or throw away that broccoli head.

While cooking the broccoli, you can boil it well and throw away the rest of the water. This will help take away some of the bitterness of your broccoli.

You can also blanch the broccoli in a pot full of salt and water. This will help the broccoli to get rid of the bitter compounds present in it.

You can also try adding a little bit more spices and seasonings than usual, to help cover the bitterness.

Thus, cooking your broccoli well can definitely help to lessen or mellow down the bitterness component of broccoli, if not completely eliminate it.

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In order to prevent your broccoli from turning bitter, it is important to ensure that you are providing and growing your broccoli in the optimal conditions and harvesting your broccoli heads on time. Most of the time broccoli turns bitter simply as a result of over-maturation or bolting. Thus, make sure that you know when it is the right time to harvest your broccoli!