Harvesting Citrus Fruit

Harvesting your delicious oranges, lemons, and limes is the reason you began this citrus tree growing adventure. Now that all of your care and cultivation has paid off, it is time to harvest and store your citrus fruit so you can enjoy and share it.

When To Harvest Citrus

Citrus fruit does not further ripen and sweeten after picking, and many varieties will look bright orange or invitingly lemon yellow well before the fruit is ready to pick and eat. The best way to know if your citrus fruit is ready to pick is by tasting. The flavor and sweetness of your citrus fruit depends on the weather and conditions of the growing season, and not the time in storage after picking.

A best practice is to harvest fruit growing lower to the ground first. Frost tends to affect lower fruit more, and low fruit may also be susceptible to splashing dirt, which can soil fruit or invite pests in heavy rains.

To remove citrus from the tree, gently twist the individual fruit from the branch. Some easy-to-peel varieties like tangerines or honeybells should be clipped from their branches. Wrinkled citrus fruit skin is an indication of fruit that has been left on the tree for too long.

Harvesting Citrus By Fruit Type

Meyer Lemon Trees

Meyer lemons are usually ready to harvest between August and February and are safe to pick once they turn yellow. Lemons stored at room temperature will last for about a week. Refrigerated lemons should keep for up to a month. Lemons can take up to 4 months from bloom to harvest.

Key Lime Trees

Key limes are usually ready to harvest in the summer. Key limes are harvested prior to fully ripening while still green. Key limes can be used when green, but will also soften somewhat as they ripen and turn pale yellow.

Valencia Orange Trees

Valencia oranges are usually ready to harvest in late spring to mid summer. Oranges keep better at room temperature.

Tangerine Trees

Tangerines are harvested in winter and spring and will only keep a few days.

Storage of Citrus Fruit

Ripe citrus fruit can remain on the tree for several weeks. If your fruit needs to be harvested and you are not able to use your fruit right away, you can store it in a cool place for several weeks.