If you’ve accidentally left a broccoli at the bottom of your fridge for a bit too long, you’ve probably found that the tops have turned yellow. It might seem a waste to just throw it away, but can you safely cook and eat it?
Yellow broccoli is still safe to eat, although yellowing does indicate that the broccoli has gone past its best and may no longer taste as nice. It may also be lacking in some of the nutrients that make broccoli healthy. You can cut off the yellow parts and use the rest, or eat the whole thing.
Broccoli that has turned yellow may be safe to eat, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to eat it – so in this article, we’re going to explore this in more detail so you can decide whether or not to cook and eat the broccoli in your fridge.
Why Does Broccoli Turn Yellow?
Broccoli turns yellow because its green color comes from the chlorophyll inside the leaves. This chlorophyll starts to break down as the broccoli gets older, and this causes the leaves to start turning yellow. The yellow is already present in broccoli, thanks to pigments known as xanthophylls.
These xanthophylls are carotenoids and they are in the broccoli already, but they tend to be hidden by the chlorophyll, which is a stronger color. As the chlorophyll fades, the xanthophylls become more prominent – but nothing has actually changed, so the broccoli is still perfectly safe to eat. There are no new compounds just because it has turned yellow.
Broccoli can also turn yellow due to environmental stress while it is growing – so this isn’t always age related. Some of the stress sources that can cause yellowing include:
- Too little fertilizer
- Too much fertilizer
- Too little water
- Too much water
- Too little sunlight
- Too much sunlight
- Pest problems
- Sharp temperature fluctuations
These factors will speed up the aging process in the plant, and its chlorophyll levels will reduce. That means that if you’re growing your own broccoli, it can turn yellow even while it’s still on the plant. Yellowing means that something is wrong in the broccoli’s environment, so you should look for ways to correct this to avoid wasting the crop.
Is Yellow Broccoli Safe To Eat?
Lightly yellow broccoli is perfectly safe to eat, but you should be aware that the yellowness is a sign of aging, and that means that the broccoli is starting to go past its best, and may be beginning to decay. That means that you should look out for other signs of decay, and avoid eating the broccoli if it shows them.
For example, you should check over the whole broccoli for mold. Often, old broccoli gets infected with a thin, gray-white mold that covers the tops. If this is starting to form, the broccoli is no longer good to eat and needs to be composted.
You should also look out for mushiness, which similarly indicates that the vegetable has started to go off. Gently press on the stalks; they should be firm and not dent under your fingers. They should also be difficult to bend, although bendy broccoli on its own isn’t unsafe to eat.
Next, smell the broccoli. It is a part of the brassica family and will have a strongly cabbage-like odor if it has started to go off. When fresh, it will smell leafy and pleasant, but won’t have a particularly strong scent. It’s only once it starts to smell really strong that it is going off. This will be more noticeable if it was wrapped in plastic.
Is Yellow Broccoli Healthy?
Because the yellowing indicates that the broccoli is going past its best, you should be aware that there is a chance it will no longer be as good for you. Vegetables start losing nutrients and vitamins as soon as they are picked, so the longer you store the broccoli, the less healthy it will be when you come to eat it.
That doesn’t mean it is unhealthy, but it does mean that you won’t be getting the full benefits of eating the broccoli. It’s best to try to use broccoli up as early as you can so you get as many vitamins and minerals as possible. This will give you the full health hit.
You do get some benefits from eating yellow broccoli, as it is still rich in fiber, and will still contain some of its vitamins. You just need to be aware that the overall healthiness decreases the longer you store the broccoli, and the older it is.
For best results, eat your broccoli as fresh as possible, or chop and lightly blanch it, and then freeze it until you are ready to eat it. This is one of the best ways to preserve your broccoli and minimize the risk of food waste. You can get it out whenever you are ready to eat it, and it should still be both green and very nutritious.
Does Yellow Broccoli Taste Bad?
Although a bit of yellowing is nothing to worry about, you should be aware that very yellow broccoli is unlikely to have a good flavor. It tends to become bitter as it turns yellow – and this bitterness will only increase as the plant gets older.
Unfortunately, cooking doesn’t resolve this issue and often makes it worse instead. Cooked yellow broccoli can be very bitter, because the sugars have gone out of the vegetable, and even more have been lost during the cooking process.
You can still eat it, but it may not taste particularly pleasant.
Yellow broccoli is safe to eat as long as it hasn’t started to develop mold, but you should be aware that it will not taste as nice, and it won’t be as healthy. Some of the minerals and vitamins will have been lost, and it will have developed a bitter flavor. For best results, eat your broccoli as fresh as possible.