Cheap, nutritious, and delicious, broccoli is one of the most-consumed veggies!
Occasionally, though, while you’re browsing through the stalls, you may find a few heads of broccoli with black spots on their stems.
We get it: these don’t look safe to eat at all. Most people will just put these heads back and pick another that looks fresher (and safer).
But are black spots on broccoli stems safe to eat, in reality?
The short answer is, surprisingly, yes!
You may eat broccoli with blackened stems if they only take up a small portion of the vegetable. Simply cut out the blackened part and consume the rest.
In this article, we aim to answer whether broccoli stems with black spots are safe to eat by examining the causes and potential health risks of these ones.
That way, you can make informed decisions about the food you eat!
Common Causes of Black Spots
There are two kinds of black spots on a broccoli plant: spots on the stalks (or the plant’s body) and spots on the heads (the leafy, bulbous part at the top).
They can occur for a variety of different reasons. Here are a few likely culprits.
Like most plants out there, broccolis can be attacked and infected by bacteria. Certain diseases like Black Rot can cause the leaves and plants to wilt and develop black spots.
It can affect any plant in the Brassica family, but plants like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale (all of which are part of this family) tend to be hit the hardest.
Black Rot also affects a wider range of plants, including cucurbits. They can cause zucchini plants to wilt!
As its name suggests, the bacteria causes the plant to turn yellow. Then, as the infection progresses, it creates rot and blackened tissues on the leaves and parts of the plants.
If there are bluish-black spots on the stalk, the plant is likely suffering from black leg, a disease caused by a fungi called Phoma lingam.
The fungi specifically targets the water-carrying tissues of the plant, eventually causing them to die and turn black. That’s why you’ll see streaks of black on broccoli.
Broccoli isn’t the only plant that can suffer from a fungal infection. For example, fungi can infect pepper plants and cause tiny black spots on pepper leaves, too!
When the plant isn’t given enough nutrition, it can become discolored. When a broccoli plant has to grow in soil that lacks boron, for example, the plant’s stems can turn brown or black.
In such cases, the plant is totally safe to eat, but it won’t be quite as delicious as a healthy plant. Lacks of boron causes the plant’s cells to become dehydrated.
The areas inside of the stalk may also become hollow since the plant couldn’t develop properly.
The last (and most obvious reason) for black spot on broccoli is spoilage.
When broccolis aren’t stored properly during transport from the farm to the market, the broccolis will gradually become discolored from decomposition.
Black Spots on Broccoli Stems Safe to Eat?
The answer to whether the black spots on broccoli stem safe to eat or not will entirely depend on the cause of the black spots in the first place.
If the spots result from bruising or damage to the stem, eating the rest of the broccoli is generally safe as long as it does not show any mold or decay. Just cut out the bad parts and consume the rest.
However, if the black spots are due to mold growth, it is not recommended to eat broccoli, as consuming mold can cause food poisoning and other health issues.
To be safe, you should avoid picking broccolis with obvious black spots on their bodies. And in case you accidentally chose them already, maybe it’s best just to throw them away.
It’s not worth getting food poisoning over!
Risks from Consuming Black Spots on Broccoli Stems
If you want to go ahead and eat it anyway, you should be aware of some health risks you may take on yourself (and other eaters).
Black spots on broccoli could be rotten spots that are filled with harmful bacteria like E. Coli. As a result, if you consume them, you may contract food poisoning from bacterial infection.
Risk of Infection If Eaten Raw and Not Cooked Thoroughly
Moldy broccolis can be rendered safe if you cut out the black parts and boil it carefully to kill any lingering molds and fungi.
But, many people prefer to eat raw green florets without boiling the vegetables.
You may get a pass eating broccoli raw with just a cursory bath in the tap to wash away the dirt, but it’s better to go all the way if you’re dealing with dark spots on broccoli.
If you eat it raw and it turns out to be broccoli that’s suffering from a fungal or bacterial infection, you’ll risk getting a stomach upset or an infection yourself!
Eating Spoiled Broccoli
If You’re certain that the broccoli has spoiled (either by visual cues like the dark spots on the heads or the stalks, the smell, or the squishy, slimy texture), it’s best to throw it away.
Eating a spoiled sprout vegetable like broccoli can lead to food poisoning.
Tips for Handling Black Spot Infected Broccoli Stems
So, let’s say you got a head of broccoli in your kitchen with obvious black spots on it … what should one do? Here are a couple of tips you can use to handle it and potentially make it safe to eat again!
Discard Any Stems With Black, Blighted Spots Before Cooking Or Eating
Even if you’re “quite” sure that the black dots on broccoli are just bruises or physical damage to the broccoli and not a full-blown infection … it’ll still be safer to cut it out before you cook or eat it.
Once again, there are risks to eating broccoli dark spots. So, it’ll be a good idea to minimize the risks as much as possible.
Wash Stems Well And Discard Any Wilting Leaves Before The Commencement Of Cooking Preparation
Before you cook and prepare the broccoli, make sure to wash the stems in clean water thoroughly. If you have a bottle of vegetable wash at home, give the broccoli a good scrub-down.
If you find any wilted or black spots on broccoli florets, pluck the bad florets out and throw them into the trash.
Cook Stems Until They Are Tender To Ensure Killed Bacteria
While you’re cooking broccolis with black spots, give it a few extra seconds in the boiling water compared to a green, healthy broccoli.
The extra time will ensure that all of the pathogens in the plant (bacterias, molds, fungi) are dead.
Avoid Buying Pre-Cut Broccoli That Has Discoloration Or Black Spots
Many supermarkets and grocery stores sell pre-cut broccoli florets in plastic packages.
If, while you’re inspecting the package, you find any floret with black spots or obvious discoloration (brown or yellow spots), pick another bag.
Believe us when we say these yellow, brown, or black florets won’t taste better than the green ones.
Store Broccoli Properly
If you intend to use or eat it immediately, just leave the broccoli on the kitchen counter. Make sure you use it up within 3 days.
For using it 3-5 days down the line, put it in an airtight container or a plastic bag, then throw it in the fridge.
For those who want to store broccolis for an extended amount of time (months), the freezer will be your best bet. Frozen broccoli can last for up to six months!
Now that we’ve answered the original question of whether black spots on broccoli stem is safe to eat … we got a couple of other questions from our readers on the subject!
How Can You Tell If Broccoli Has Gone Bad?
Like any vegetable, to tell whether your head of broccoli has gone bad, you need to use your senses:
- Smell: If the broccoli has a bad, pungent smell, then there’s a good chance it has already spoiled. This is usually the most obvious sign that’ll clue you in to the usability of the broccoli.
- Appearance: If you find colors other than green on the plant (yellow, brown, or black), there’s a chance that the decomposition process has already started.
- Texture: If the broccoli has a mushy or soft texture, it’s likely to have gone bad.
- Taste: For brave enough to bite into dubious-looking broccoli when it tastes bitter, you know that it’s beyond saving (and you should wash your mouth carefully to keep from ingesting the decomposition slime).
How To Store Broccoli To Prevent Broccoli Black Spots And Other Discolorations?
You’re going to store broccoli for a long time? So, you’d better put it in a plastic bag and place it in the fridge (set to temperatures between 32°F and 40°F).
At these temperatures, black mold on broccoli and bacteria won’t grow as quickly. You’ll be able to slow down spoilage.
Keep your broccoli away from other fruits and vegetables. Ripe veggies and fruits release ethylene gas, which can cause the broccoli to spoil faster.
And last but not least: try and use up all of your broccolis within a week. If you take any longer than that, the broccolis won’t be fresh anymore (even if you keep them in the fridge).
Can You Prevent Broccoli From Developing Black Spots?
That’ll depend on the cause. For bacterial or fungal infections, you can grow the broccolis yourself. It’d be best to use fungicides and antimicrobial soaps on your plants to keep the diseases from taking root.
While you’re shopping, avoid buying broccoli that has black spots. And when you bring your veggies home, store them properly in the fridge to avoid spoilage.
Now that you’ve known whether black spots on broccoli stems safe to eat or not, we hope that you feel a lot more confident about making decisions on what to eat and what to throw away in your pantry.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!