Harvesting Citrus Trees

Are you ready to enjoy delicious homegrown fruit? Harvest is the time to enjoy the results of your hard work. Keep a few things in consideration as you reap the fruits of your labor: the best time to pick the fruit from your tree, and how to store the fruit.

NOTE: This is part 11 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow citrus trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.

When to Harvest

Fruit color is often a poor indicator of ripeness because many fruits have full color rinds a long time before they can be eaten. The taste test is the best way to tell if your fruit is ripe. Unlike some fruit, citrus fruit does not further ripen and sweeten after picking. The sweetness and flavor of citrus fruit depends entirely on the amount of heat the tree has received during the growing season which will vary by location.

If growing citrus fruits outside it is best to harvest from the lower branches first. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Frost will affect fruit closer to the ground
  2. Diseases in the soil can be splashed onto the fruit from the rain

To remove fruit, gently twist the fruit from the tree or cut it off with clippers. Take care not to damage the twigs. When fruit begins to wrinkle it has been on the tree too long.

Meyeri Lemons

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

Key Limes

Key limes are usually ready to harvest in the summer. Limes are harvested prior to ripening while still green.

Valencia Oranges

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


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


Ripe 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, moist place for several weeks.

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