County agent shares tips on when to harvest citrus

By Rene' Schmit
November 02, 2009 at 11:11 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

County agent shares tips on when to harvest citrus
Homeowners with citrus trees often question the proper time to initiate harvest of the fruit. The answer is that harvest is based on several factors.

Obviously "no fruit is ready before its time." But what time is that? Citrus (with the exception of lemon) ripens no further after picking. All citrus will store well in refrigeration, but quality will not improve past the level at harvest.

Variety of citrus is probably the highest priority to consider. Satsumas tend to ripen before navel oranges, which ripen before grapefruit. Usually ripening happens at a specific time of year, but may vary by as much as several weeks depending on condition of tree, drought, early temperature variances or weather conditions. Be aware of past history as a beginning point, but be prepared to be flexible. Select one fruit on a weekly interval to better judge results.

Color - deep-green-colored fruit are sour. As fruit nears ripening, skin color lightens to a pale green color and breaks into yellowing. In South Louisiana, skin color can be dark green, change to yellow and convert back to greenish if a long warm period follows the early color change. Fruit colors from out to in, top to bottom and sunny to shady. No tree has fruit ripened equally, so proper selection is necessary for success.

Taste preference - some growers like the first tangy bite of satsumas. Others wait till deep yellow skin indicates a syrupy sweetness. Satsumas are found locally in five major varieties. The old standards "Owari" and "Brown Select" produce quality fruit that ripens in early November and lasts till after December. However, varieties with early-maturing fruit starting in early September have skin that stays greenish but yields fruit that is sweet.

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