How To Tell If Broccoli Has Gone Bad

We've all been there: You're rummaging through your fridge and stumble upon a long-forgotten bunch of broccoli. Rather than waste the produce, though, you'd probably like to incorporate it into your next meal — but perhaps you're uncertain if the cruciferous vegetable is too far past its prime. Luckily, there are a few surefire ways to determine if a sad-looking head of broccoli is salvageable.

According to EatingWell, there are three main things to check for when figuring out if broccoli has gone bad: color, smell, and texture. If areas of the broccoli are turning yellow or brown, for example, it indicates that the vegetable has seen better days — and if you spot any mold growths, it's definitely time to toss it. With this said, as Farmhouse Guide notes, some yellow florets on an otherwise green head of broccoli should be fine; just remove the yellow parts. Broccoli with mild yellowing is still in OK-territory, but if it's widespread, discard it.

The second key indicator is the smell: If the broccoli doesn't smell good, it likely won't taste very good either, per LEAFtv. As for the final characteristic of broccoli-gone-bad — texture — it's a fairly intuitive one for anyone who's enjoyed the vegetable before. As Food Network explains, at its peak, raw broccoli looks and feels firm, crisp, and well-hydrated. As such, the outlet suggests steering clear of any broccoli heads that display "mushy spots," "wilted-looking florets," and "shriveled or dried out" stems.

How to keep broccoli fresh

Luckily, it is possible to combat some signs of potential spoilage — but only if you're able to catch them in time. According to Cook's Illustrated, wilted broccoli can be revived by trimming the stem and placing the vegetable upright in a container filled with cold water. Pop the broccoli in the fridge for "about an hour," and the water will have rehydrated the vegetable, crisping it back up.

Because broccoli has a relatively short shelf-life before going bad — only three to five days in the refrigerator, as noted by MyRecipes — storing it correctly is essential for maximizing its longevity. Food52 recommends "[treating] broccoli like a beautiful bouquet of flowers" by keeping the stem submerged in a container of ice water (much like the revival method above). Alternatively, the outlet says you can hydrate broccoli stems by wrapping them "loosely" in damp (but not too damp) paper towels before storing them in the fridge.