The Best Way To Get Worms Out Of Broccoli

I harvested the first of our broccoli this past week! And let me tell you, it was SO flavorful. I don’t know why I was so surprised to find it so tasty, but I was. Something else that was surprising to me… the worms I found!

harvested broccoli in basket
harvested broccoli in basket

It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to find any worms on my broccoli. I shared with you last week that we’ve had some trouble with an infestation. But I didn’t realize how many worms there were in my broccoli florets, and I didn’t expect them to be so hard to spot!

Have you ever seen a broccoli worm? The green ones? If you have, you know they are exactly the same color as the broccoli they are on. And some of them are practically microscopic! I tried to show my husband how ridiculously hard it was to find the worms on our florets.

But when I held up to his face a piece with a good sized critter on it, it took him forever to finally spot it! I laughed as he responded, “Yeah, I totally would have eaten that.

And then my problem was that my family was afraid to eat our broccoli. Even I was a bit hesitant.

After picking over the broccoli several times, each time being positive I’d gotten all of the worms only to find another one hiding within the little buds, I was afraid I’d never get them all out.

I know some of you would have no trouble eating a little worm if you didn’t know it was there. But the very idea makes me gag.

In this post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to prevent worms from getting into your broccoli heads – and what to do if they end up there. Keep reading to learn more!

In a Hurry: Here’s My Tried-and-True Way To Do It…

The most effective and easiest way to get worms out of broccoli is to fill a bowl with water (hot or cold) and add a few teaspoons of salt to it. Dump the broccoli in, and those pesky worms will be on their way out!

Types of Worms in Broccoli

Some types of worms are beneficial to plants, while others can cause damage. The worms below are common broccoli plants. While all these types of worms can damage broccoli plants, they can be controlled with the use of pesticides.

Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are the larvae of Pieris rapae, a small white butterfly also known as the small white. The adult cabbage butterflies lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves, and the caterpillars hatch a few days later.

They are voracious eaters and quickly strip a plant of its foliage. In addition to cabbage, they will also feed on broccoli, kale, collards, and other members of the Brassica family.

Diamondback Worms

These pests are the larvae of a type of moth, and they’re particularly fond of eating brassica plants like broccoli, cabbage, and kale. While a few worms here and there might not do too much damage, a heavy infestation can destroy an entire crop.

In addition to eating the leaves of plants, diamondback worms also lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves. As the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed, damaging the plant even further.

Cabbage Loopers

Cabbage loopers are members of the moth family. The adult moth has brown and white stripes on its wings, and the larva (caterpillar) is green with three white stripes running down its back.

Cabbage loopers are a common garden pest, and they can cause serious damage to cabbage, broccoli, kale, and other leafy greens. These pests are particularly fond of brassica plants, and they will often strip a plant of all its leaves in a matter of days.

Do Broccoli Worms Affect Other Plant Species?

Broccoli worms are a type of caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of broccoli plants. While they are not harmful to humans, they can cause significant damage to crops. In some cases, infestations can result in the complete loss of a crop.

In addition to broccoli, these caterpillars may also feed on other members of the cabbage family, including kale, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower.

They may also feed on other leafy greens, such as spinach and lettuce. They can have a devastating impact on crops. As a result, farmers must be vigilant in monitoring their fields for infestations and take steps to control them.

How to Get Worms Out of Broccoli Plants

If you’ve ever found a worm in your broccoli, you’re not alone. These pests are common in brassica crops, and can do a lot of damage to plants. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them.

Check Plants Often

First, check your plants regularly for signs of worms. Look for small holes in the leaves or stems, as well as sawdust-like frass around the base of the plant. If you see these signs, it’s time to take action.

Bacillus Thuringiensis

Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt for short, is a naturally occurring bacterium that can be used to control caterpillars and other pests in the garden. When applied to cabbage, broccoli, and other cole crops, Bt produces a toxin that is deadly to caterpillars but safe for humans and other animals.

While Bt is most commonly used as a biological insecticide, it can also be used as a preventative measure. by sprinkling it on the plants before caterpillars have a chance to feed.

Applying Bt early in the season can also help to reduce populations of later-generation pests. In addition to being an effective pest control measure, Bt is also relatively easy to use and safe for the environment.

Cover WIth a Screen or Mesh Laundry Basket

Who knew that those little mesh laundry baskets had so many uses? I use mine for everything from draining pasta to storing my yarn.

But my favorite use for them is as a way to get rid of broccoli worms. Just pop a lid on the basket and set it over your broccoli plant. The little worms will crawl in, but they won’t be able to get out. In a few days, they’ll all be gone! And you’ll still have a nice, healthy plant.

So next time you see a mesh laundry basket, don’t just think of it as something to throw your dirty clothes into. Think of it as a way to keep your broccoli (and other plants) happy and worm-free!

Grow Companion Plants

Companion planting is a gardening technique that involves planting different types of plants together in order to reap the benefits of their symbiotic relationship.

One such benefit is the ability to naturally repel pests. For example, broccoli worms are commonly controlled by planting broccoli alongside other plants, such as sage, garlic, rosemary, or potatoes.

Dill is another good option (more on this below) as are plants like fennel, wormwood, and more. Avoid planting broccoli near other cole crops, like Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, as broccoli pests will be attracted to these plants as well.

The strong scent of these herbs confuses and repels the worms, while the potatoes act as a trap crop, attracting them away from the broccoli. As a result, companion planting can be an effective way to protect your crops from pests without the use of harmful chemicals.

Remove Weeds

To prevent an infestation, it’s important to remove any weeds from the garden area. Weeds provide a breeding ground for small white butterflies, and removing them can help to reduce the population of broccoli worms.

In addition, keeping the garden free of debris and trash will help to deny these pests a place to hide.

Use Pantyhose or Nylons

If you love broccoli but hate the little green worms that seem to appear out of nowhere, then you’ll be happy to know that there’s an easy way to get rid of them. All you need is a pair of pantyhose or nylons!

Simply put the nylons over the top of the plant, securing them at the base with a rubber band. The worms will be trapped inside, and your broccoli will be safe to eat. Best of all, this method is completely natural and completely effective.

Try Floating Row Covers

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of broccoli worms, floating row covers are a great option. Row covers are pieces of fabric that you can lay over your plants to create a barrier between them and the outside environment.

This can be extremely effective in keeping pests out, as well as protecting your plants from harsh weather conditions.

Row covers also allow for better airflow and sunlight penetration, which can improve the overall health of your plants.

When it comes to broccoli worms, row covers can be particularly effective in preventing them from getting to your plants in the first place. If you already have an infestation, however, row covers can also help to trap the worms so that they can be easily removed.

Insecticidal Soap

This type of soap is specifically designed to kill insects, and it works by dissolving the protective coating on their bodies. When used correctly, insecticidal soap can be highly effective at controlling broccoli worms.

Just mix a few tablespoons of soap into a gallon of water, and then spray it onto the affected plants. Be sure to coat the undersides of the leaves, as that is where the worms are most likely to hide. Within a few days, you should see a dramatic reduction in the number of worms.


Handpicking involves systematically inspecting your broccoli plants and removing any worms that you find. While this method may seem time-consuming, it is often the most effective way to prevent serious damage to your crop.

In addition, handpicking can also help to reduce the overall population of broccoli worms, making it easier to control them in future years.

Plant Dill Nearby

Dill is a strong-smelling herb that deters many types of insects, including broccoli worms. Additionally, dill provides a host of other benefits for your garden.

It attracts beneficial predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, which help to keep pests in check. It also improves the flavor of many vegetables, including broccoli.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a type of fine, powdery sediment that is composed of the fossilized remains of algae. It is harmless to animals and humans, but it is deadly to insects.

When applied to plants, diatomaceous earth works by cutting through the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to dehydrate and die. Best of all, it is completely natural and will not harm your plants or soil.

Beneficial Insects and Animals

One method is to encourage beneficial insects and animals to take up residence in your garden. Ladybugs, for instance, are voracious eaters of aphids and other small pests.

Lacewings and predatory wasps also help to keep the population of harmful insects under control. Other predators of broccoli pests include toads and frogs.

Inviting these creatures into your garden is one of the best organic ways to keep pests out!

Attracting these beneficial creatures to your garden can be as simple as providing a few shelters or planting some of their favorite food sources.

Rotate Your Crops

By planting different crops in different parts of the garden, you can help to reduce the risk of infestation.

For example, if you plant broccoli in the same spot year after year, you may eventually end up with an infestation of broccoli worms. However, if you rotate your crops, you can help to prevent this from happening.

In addition to reducing the risk of infestation, crop rotation can also help to improve the quality of your soil.

Over time, planting the same crops in the same spot can deplete the soil of essential nutrients. By rotating your crops, you can help to ensure that the soil stays healthy and productive.

Getting Worms Out of Harvested Broccoli

Anyone who has ever harvested broccoli knows that it’s not uncommon to find a worm or two hiding among the heads. While some people consider this a sign of freshness, others find it downright gross. So how do you get rid of the worms and enjoy your broccoli without fear?

The good news is that there are a few simple methods for getting rid of worms in broccoli.

Salt Water

When we discovered worms in our broccoli, the first thought was to try some BT. This is an effective treatment, as mentioned, to get rid of worms on broccoli that is still growing.

Jerry ran to Home Depot to look for some BT to sprinkle on our broccoli and cabbage to try to help control the bugs. Unfortunately, they were out.

But, there was a very helpful lady in the garden center who he spoke with. She raises her own organic garden at home, and recommended to him that I soak the individual spears of broccoli in a salt water solution before cooking it. She assured him that this would kill the worms, and they would fall off of the broccoli.

When he called me with this tip, I immediately filled a large bowl with cold water and sprinkled several teaspoons of salt into it. After soaking the broccoli florets for about 5 minutes or so, I pulled them out of the water and rinsed them off.

And what do you know, there in the water were a few more teeny tiny worms floating in the bottom of the bowl! It worked: I was free to enjoy my broccoli!

I steamed my first helping from our garden. It was delicious. Though, I couldn’t help examining each piece before putting it into my mouth. You know, just in case.

I’m so glad to have found a helpful tip for getting the worms out of my broccoli though!! This will save me a ton of time next go around.

Soak in Vinegar

One way to deter these pests is to soak the broccoli in a vinegar solution before cooking. The acidity of the vinegar will kill any worms or larvae that are present, making the broccoli safe to eat. In addition, this treatment can help to lock in moisture and improve the flavor of the broccoli.

Wash Thoroughly

Make sure to wash your broccoli thoroughly before cooking or eating it. This will help to remove any worms that may be present.

Wash the broccoli thoroughly in the sink, examining the entire head for a wiggly green worm. Drain in a colander, then rinse again. This method will also help to remove dirt and other crop debris and residue, by the way.

Second, check the broccoli closely for signs of worms before cooking or eating it. If you see any worms, simply cut them out and discard them.

Final Thoughts

Just know that if you are one of those people who love to eat broccoli, or any cruciferous vegetable for that matter, then there is a good chance you have ingested some unwanted guests—worms. Now that we have your attention, consider this your guide to getting worms out of broccoli.

I know it can be a daunting task, but hopefully our tips and tricks make the process a little bit easier (and less gross) for you. You can keep broccoli pests at bay and enjoy fresh broccoli leaves and trees all year long!

updated 07/30/2022 by Rebekah Pierce

8 thoughts on “The Best Way To Get Worms Out Of Broccoli”

  1. I wonder if we should be doing this with fresh broccoli from farm stands, too? I never did before but after seeing all the worms that came out of the small amount I grew this year I was totally grossed out (I am recovering from a stomach bug now as it is!), so much so that I might just toss it in my compost pile.

  2. We raised broccoli for the first time this year. I have cut 3 large heads so far. I use salt water too (lots of salt). I soak, then rinse and do it again. I also stick it in boiling water for just a moment and lo and behold, you will get one or two more worms! It is the most disgusting thought to think you may eat one!!! EEK, YUCK, BARF.
    I may be over doing it, but I don’t think so. You can’t be too careful when it comes to buggers!

  3. Okay, VERY glad to see this tip! But also sorta freaked out!! I thought I checked over our broccoli pretty well last year but what if I didn’t? Ick. Yuck. Gross. I will totally be doing this regularly from here on out!!!! Thanks for the tip!!!

  4. Yup, soaking in salt water is the very best way. You can cover with a thin mesh also to help deter the moths that lay the eggs that turn into worms, but if you have florets already it’s probably too late for that. Broccoli, being a cold weather crop doesn’t mind having a little cover anyway in the heat of summer.

    Wow… your harvesting already we are still waiting for germination. We’ve had a rather cold spring so far though, so the greenhouse stuff didn’t even want to peek. All seems to be making an attempt now at least. I noticed the pak choy, lettace, peas, radishes and some of the herbs are showing their little green heads. Beans will probably peek out this week with the warmer weather along with beets and the seed squash and cucumbers. The little squash and cucumbers that I started early are doing well. We’ll be harvesting in about 1 month. I agree, fresh veggies from the garden are absolutely the best!!!

  5. I like the broccoli leaves better than the florets, so we eat those in salads and green smoothies.

    As for worms…I keep my brassicas covered w/row cover or PVC/windowscreen cages DH made specifically to keep cabbage moths away from them.


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