Late summer has produced broccoli plants with thick stalks ready for harvest. As hard as we try, there is far too much for us to stay on top of. It’s time to think about saving seed for next year and preserving the harvest for the winter months.
Broccoli produces lovely yellow flowers that will develop into seeds. When broccoli flowers just begin to appear, you can still eat them. But if too many flowers open, the stalks become tough and too chewy to eat. I like to save seed from the most productive plant for next year’s garden. I choose the biggest broccoli plant and allow the cluster to flower and develop seed.
Do this every season for years and you will end up with your own special seed strain. (With winter crops, like spinach, save the seed from the hardiest plants and you end up with special strains that are more resilient to withstand cold weather!) As an added bonus, the bees will enjoy stocking up on pollen from the vegetables while they flower.
Freezing the rest of our broccoli harvest is a simple, easy way to preserve the bounty for the cold months when our homestead is not as productive. You can’t simply throw broccoli in the freezer though. Instead, it needs to be blanched to “set” the color and flavor. Blanching is an extra step, but a relatively easy one.
To blanch broccoli, bring a pot of water to a boil. Toss in the broccoli and let it boil for just 3-4 minutes, then plunge into cold weather. That will stop the broccoli from further cooking to cool it immediately.
Once cool, toss into a strainer to let the water trickle out. When it has dried, you can either put it in a freezer bag altogether or lay on a cookie sheet in the freezer for a couple hours. The cookie sheet will freeze them individually, so it’s easier to pull out just a few at a time from the freezer. Once frozen, move them from a cookie sheet into the freezer bag.
We are heading on vacation soon, so I went ahead and harvested all the broccoli except for my seed plant. When I return, some of those plants may have produced some nice side shoots to eat fresh. Otherwise, it’s time for the broccoli to get pulled out to make room for cold-hardy winter crops.
Are you freezing any produce this season to keep it through the winter? Do you have experience saving your own vegetable seeds? Share your experience in the comments below!