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How to Tell If Broccoli Has Gone Bad, According to a Food Scientist

Not sure if your bunch of broccoli is still safe to eat? A food scientist shares how to tell if your broccoli has gone bad.

Written by
Jane Smart

Due to its numerous nutritional benefits—including high iron content, vitamin A, and vitamin C—broccoli is something of a dietary staple. But if you've ever wondered how to tell if broccoli is bad (has it taken on a violet hue? does it look bluish?), you're not alone.

Broccoli typically stays fresh in the fridge for three to five days. After that, weird stuff starts to happen to those precious florets, from changing colors to a not-so-pleasant odor. Here's everything you should know before eating a questionable bunch of broccoli.

Check the Color of the Broccoli

Blue or Purple Broccoli

Broccoli is a vegetable (shock!), which means that it's possible (and natural) for it to turn different colors due to environmental factors. According to food scientist Makenzie Jackson, MS, your broccoli's bluish blush is caused by anthocyanins, which are a purplish-blue and naturally present in the plant releasing. "

Anthocyanins are associated with a lot of health benefits, so their presence is [actually] a good thing," Jackson tells Brightly. "Consider yourself lucky if you come into contact with blue broccoli." While your blue-tinted broccoli is completely safe to eat, you can always blanch the veggie to make it a touch more appetizing.

Yellow or Brown Broccoli

Blue or purple broccoli is safe to eat... but what about broccoli that has a yellow hue? "Yellow means that the broccoli is not as fresh," says Jackson, adding that the vegetable's green tones shift to yellow as they degrade.

If only parts of the broccoli are yellow, discard the bad pieces and cook up the rest. If it's all yellow, Jackson says it's not safe to eat. The same goes for broccoli that develops a brown color or has black patches—another sign that the broccoli should be sent to the compost bin instead of your stomach.

Do a Texture and Smell Test

Taking a closer look at the broccoli stem is an easy way to tell if the broccoli is bad. If the stem is firm and the colors of the florets haven't turned yellow, brown, or black, the broccoli is still safe to eat. If the stem is soft, it has begun to spoil. Jackson also says to avoid eating any florets that have become mushy.

The smell test is also an easy one because broccoli tends to give off a very unpleasant odor once it's gone bad. If the broccoli no longer smells fresh, you'll know immediately and shouldn't consume it.

How to Make Broccoli Last Longer

You don't have to be a food scientist to tell if your broccoli has well and truly turned—let common sense be your guide. "If the broccoli stalk is mushy, moldy, light brown, or all yellow, it's not safe to eat," says Jackson. She adds that if the broccoli smells noticeably off, it's best to avoid consumption.

To prolong your broccoli's shelf life, Jackson suggests wrapping the veggie in a damp paper towel and refrigerating. Freezing your broccoli is also an option—just be sure to blanch it first to retain maximum freshness. You can also put it in a Veggie Saver Produce Bag.