Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Harvesting your Lemons

Harvesting a large lemon

Harvesting a large lemon

Lemon trees are prolific providers of fresh fruit—many cultivars produce lemons year-round. But it can be a long wait from the time you see a tiny green lemon appear on your tree; you’re going to have several months to wait until the fruit is ripe for the picking.

In general, lemons are ripe when they’ve reached their cultivar’s color; most lemons are yellow, but there are some stripey versions, too. The size at which your lemons are ripe depends on the type of lemon tree you have. Some trees produce lemons about the size of what we can find at the market. Other cultivars can produce some really hefty size fruit!

One of the other signs that your lemon is about ready to be harvested is that the fruit will look glossy, like someone polished it.

Don’t wait for your lemons to all perfectly align with these signs of ripeness. If you wait too long (you’ll know you did when you get a squishy lemon), you’ll lose out on enjoying a fresh lemon. Lemons that still have a little green left on them will finish up ripening after you pick them.

Picking lemons is easy; just be gentle with your tree. Take the fruit in your hand and twist the lemon free of the tree. If you prefer, you can also use small garden snips to cut the lemons.

Store your freshly-picked lemons in the fridge, in a crisper drawer. They’ll stay fresh for about a week. If you want your lemons to last longer, put them in a sealed container, zip-top bag, or one of those lemon-shaped lemon containers. That will keep your lemons fresh for up to a month and will keep them from drying out. However tempted you may be to leave your fresh lemons out on the counter, proudly displayed in your favorite fruit bowl, don’t do it. Your lemons will do one of two things: dry out and shrivel up; or attract mold, then dry out and shrivel up.

Do you know exactly when to harvest your lemons? Please tell us what you look for when getting ready to harvest.


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