What Is Bolting?

Bolt is a slang word used to refer to the appearance of cauliflower or any other type of cruciferous vegetable plant (broccoli being one). When it appears that the stem is bent, twisted, broken or otherwise deformed. These are called “bolts”. Some varieties have no spikes at all. Bolted plants may look like they have been damaged, but will still produce good quality food.

How Does It Affect The Taste Of My Food?

The taste of your food may change slightly because of the way the leaves appear to bend or twist. If you eat a bolt, don’t worry; it won’t affect your health!

Why Do I Need To Remove Bolts From My Broccoli?

If you notice that your broccoli is starting to bulge out from its center, then you need to remove the bolt. You can use a knife or even just your hands. There’s nothing wrong with removing them yourself if they’re bothering you too much. However, there are some things that you should not attempt to do yourself. If you’re unsure of anything, get a professional to do it for you.

What Not To Do With Your Bolted Broccoli?

Do not eat! They may be slightly misshapen and unsightly, but they are perfectly good to eat. However, due to their appearance, most people do not wish to consume them.

Should I Bag And Compost Them?

Bagging and composting is the best way to make use of these vegetables. You can’t put them in the trash because they’re still good to eat. Not to mention, it could attract animals and insects that may be harmful to you or your garden!

Can I Cook Them?

Yes, you can cook your bolts. In fact, your bolts are fine to eat whether they are cooked or not! Leave the heads on when you cook them. You can also add a bit of butter and salt for some extra flavor.

Any Other Tips?

Bolts are much better to eat after the heat of summer has passed. Since they contain a high amount of sulfur, the flavor tends to get very strong when it gets hot. Bolted plants are still good to eat in the fall and can be cooked just like regular broccoli!

Can I Use Them To Propagate More Broccoli?

You can use your bolts to grow more broccoli. Just leave a few of the curled or bent heads in a container filled with water. The stems will continue to grow roots where they come in contact with the water and will eventually sprout little heads. After about a month, you’ll have several new sprouts that you can plant in your garden or give away to friends!

How Do I Stop Bolts In The First Place?

There are a few ways to stop bolts from happening in the first place. The first way is to make sure your soil has the right amount of nitrogen. You can test your soil with a kit from any local gardening store. The ideal amount of nitrogen should be around 30ppm. If your soil has too much nitrogen, the plant will think it is growing faster than it actually is and will start producing more buds in order to sustain itself.

The other way to stop bolts is to make sure the broccoli doesn’t get too big. Pick it often and make sure there isn’t a lot of sunlight. The more sunlight it gets and the bigger it grows, the faster it will start producing these misshapen heads! You can prevent this by simply not giving it a lot of sunlight and picking it early.

That way, it won’t grow big and strong and will stay in its juvenile stage longer.

You can also pick off the biggest outside heads and leave the smaller ones on. Picking the heads actually encourages it to make more, smaller heads instead of a few big ones which is great if you’re just looking to pick one every once in awhile.

Also, never let your soil dry out. Broccoli doesn’t like it when its root system gets dried out at all. It will immediately start trying to grow more heads in order to secure a larger root system.

Wrap Up

Hopefully this guide to growing and dealing with bolts has cleared up any questions you may have had about these misshapen vegetables. Bolted broccoli is a great way to supplement your income for a few months every year. Especially if you live in an area where the growing season is short.

Keep your bolt heads picked, watered and well fed and they’ll treat you right for years to come!

Sources & references used in this article:

Chinese broccoli (Kailaan) in southern Australia by W Morgan, D Midmore – RIRDC Report, 2003 – researchgate.net

Evaluation of experimental broccoli hybrids developed for summer production in the eastern United States by MW Farnham, T Björkman – HortScience, 2011 – journals.ashs.org

Breeding vegetables adapted to high temperatures: A case study with broccoli by MW Farnham, T Bjorkman – HortScience, 2011 – journals.ashs.org

Cole crop production (broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) by BA Kahn, EJ Rebek, JP Damicone – 2009 – shareok.org

Cauliflower and Broccoli: Varieties and Culture by RC Thompson – 1965 – books.google.com

Effects of plant spacing on broccoli yield and hollow stem in Alaska by M Griffith, DE Carling – Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 1991 – NRC Research Press

Root zone temperature, plant growth and yield of broccoli [Brassica oleracea (Plenck) var. italica] as affected by plastic film mulches by JC Díaz-Pérez – Scientia Horticulturae, 2009 – Elsevier

Broccoli line M7028 by R Barham, D Joynt – US Patent 7,829,763, 2010 – Google Patents

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