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Storage & Packaging

Good quality plants have dark or bright green closed beads. Heads should be compact, approximately 3 to 8 inches in diameter, with cleanly-cut stalks or snapped at 8 inches. Waxed cartons will withstand icing and hold 14 to 18 bunches.

Crown-cut broccoli is cut from the stem at 5 inches with a top dome 5 to 5.5 inches in diameter. Packed cartons contain 34 to 38 bulk-packed crowns.

Broccoli florets are loosely packed in bags and stored in cardboard cartons of 9 to 18 pounds containing 3 to 4 bags apiece. Broccoli to be processed or frozen is cut at about 6 inches at the stem and collected in bulk bins for delivery to the processor.

Broccoli heads must be cooled immediately after harvest to prevent dehydration and floret yellowing. Heads have higher respiration rates than separated florets.

Optimal shelf life, when stored at 32°F and 95% relative humidity or above, is between 21 to 28 days (but can vary by cultivar).

Broccoflower and broccolini should also be stored at 32°F; however, other hybrids can survive higher temperatures for longer periods of time. Exposure to ethylene is particularly damaging and can reduce shelf-life by half.

References: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Clemson Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Oregon State University, PennState Extension, UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Illinois Extension, University of Wisconsin, USDA.


Grades are divided into U.S. No. 1 and U.S. No. 2; broccoli for either grade must be fresh, tender, and with good coloration. For U.S. No. 1, broccoli must have compact, well-trimmed heads and no damage from scars, discoloration, insects, disease, or mechanical injury.

For U.S. No. 2, the head will be mostly compact, decently trimmed, with no serious damage by freezing, hollow stem, insects, or decay.

In terms of length, U.S. No. 1 broccoli shall be between 4 and 6 inches, with a stem diameter of .38 inches; U.S. No. 2 grade shall be between 3 and 6 inches, with a stem diameter of at least .25 inches.

Though not offcially graded to U.S. standards, broccolini should be similar to broccoli in trimming, with compact heads and no damage. Broccolini stems, however, should be 8 inches long.

Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.

U.S. Grade Standards Days Since Shipment % of Defects Allowed Optimum Transit Temp. (F)
10-2 5

There are no good arrival guidelines for this commodity specific to Canada; U.S. guidelines apply to shipments unless otherwise agreed by contract.

References: DRC, PACA, USDA.


  • Some varieties of broccoli often have a purplish to blue color of the bud clusters; this is a varietal characteristic and is not a defect
  • ‘Hollow stems’ is a defect when discolored or if the opening extends more than 3 inches up into the stem
  • Bunches would be considered damaged by ‘flowering bud clusters’ when more than 3 buds are obviously open
  • A bunch is considered damaged when more than 5 insects are present or when more than 1 worm is present.

Source: Tom Yawman, International Produce Training,

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This information is for your personal, noncommercial use only.