Fermenting Broccoli–Zesty Broccoli Stem Pickles

I don’t know about you, but I love pickles. And for me, pickles do not have to be made from cucumbers. They just have to have a kick. So, imagine my delight to read this recipe for zesty broccoli pickles by Andrea.

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Posted by Andrea

They said it couldn’t be done. Time and again I ran into books and articles that either

  1. completely ignored fermenting broccoli as a possibility
  2. conceded to bits of it in addition to another ferment (like shreds of broccoli stems in a batch of kraut) or
  3. denied the possibility of broccoli fermentation outright.

One author I really enjoy stated that “fermentation just isn’t a long-term preservation solution for broccoli.”

Fermenting Broccoli–Zesty Broccoli Stem Pickles

Since I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like being told “no,” I knew that I needed to try for myself. The results were amazing! I’m so glad I made the attempt to create pickles with this oft-ignored vegetable.

 Granted, the florets seem destined for mushy failure, but the stems? They are gorgeously suited for fermentation. They are firm, crunchy, and taste a bit like cabbage. If you end up with a bunch of broccoli with huge stems attached, you are in luck; with just a little bit of time spent cutting the stems up, you can start fermenting some crunchy, spicy broccoli pickles that will be ready in a couple of weeks.

I first thought of using broccoli stems last fall when I made Dill Spears. I fell in love with them! Recently, I decided to try a different flavor; I used a simple recipe with brine and red pepper flakes, very much like the Kohlrabi Hotsticks that my family can’t get enough of. Sure enough, the resulting spicy pickles are incredibly tasty.

Red pepper flakes are a nice addition to many fermented vegetables, and a foolproof way to add just enough kick and delightful flavor. Don’t throw those broccoli stems in the compost–give these Zesty Broccoli Stem Pickles a try.

Brine Salt Calculator | Fermentools.com

 Zesty Broccoli Stem Pickles

 • 2-3 pounds organic broccoli (look for bunches with long stems)

• 1 wide-mouth quart canning jar

• 2 c. filtered water

• 2 t. unrefined sea salt

• ½ t. red pepper flakes

In a bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the salt and water, stirring until salt is completely dissolved. Set aside. Remove florets and leaves from the broccoli, set aside.

Start by cutting stems into halves or thirds so you have a pile of stems of roughly the same size. Take each segment and peel off the outer layer with a paring knife (I have a ‘tomato knife’ that is perfect for jobs like this). The peeling step is optional, but I’ve found that the outer layer of the stem tends to get tough when fermented. Chop each peeled section into spears.

*note: stem sizes can vary. If you don’t end up with enough spears to fill a quart jar, try filling a wide-mouthed pint jar and halving the recipe. Fermentools will fit any wide-mouthed canning jar.

Put red pepper flakes into the wide-mouth quart canning jar. Pack the spears into the jar. I like to pack them in as I peel and chop them. Pack them firmly until they are an inch from the top of the jar. Pour the salt-water solution over the spears and add a weight to keep the veggies submerged. You should have an inch of space from the top of the weight/brine to the top of the jar.

Put a lid on the jar and set in a dark place, avoiding extreme temperatures. This is a quick ferment and should be ready within 2 weeks, but you can let it ferment to your taste, up to 4 weeks. When it tastes perfect, place in fridge (remove airlock first if you used one). Will last 6 months in the fridge if you don’t eat them all before then!


When life (or your garden) gives you cucumbers, make pickles! But when that harvest comes in by the bushel, don’t get caught without enough supplies. Get your 12-pack from the Fermentools store! Then you will be ready for whatever nature throws your way.


Andrea gardens, forages, cooks and ferments on a little plot in the city. She loves spreading the word about age-old practices and making them new, exciting and feasible for everyone. Find her at LittleBigHarvest.com.

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