You’ve done the research. You’ve planted the seedling. You’ve cared for it for a couple of years. You’ve seen it grow. You watched flowers bloom. You’re finally seeing teeny-tiny baby lemons.
And now you need to know— how do I actually harvest these lemons that I have worked so hard to grow?
Good news! I’ve done all the work for you and have compiled everything I know about how to harvest lemons in one post for you.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to harvest lemons, and even a few fun things you can use them for once you’ve got them!
When to Harvest Lemons
Sometimes, the hardest part of harvesting fruit is to know when to harvest the fruit! If you harvest it too early, it’ll be underripe and unflavorful. If you wait too long to harvest, you run the risk of pests getting your fruit or it getting past the point of ripe to where you can not fully enjoy it.
Here are some tips to know how to harvest lemons at the correct time.
How long after they appear on the tree?
After the first tiny green lemon appears on your lemon tree, it’ll only take a few months for it to fully mature and be ready to harvest and enjoy. The season in which your lemons are ready will vary so much from climate to climate, it’s easier to just pay attention to when they appear and begin checking them more closely after a few months.
What color and size should they be?
Lemons will begin green and turn yellow as they begin to ripen. The color isn’t the most important detail to pay attention to, though. If you wait until the lemons are completely yellow, sometimes you’ll have overripe lemons on the tree.
Lemons that are ready to harvest will be somewhere between 2-3 inches long. Their skin should be plump and firm.
For more details, check out our post on the Right Time to Pick Lemons.
Tools Needed to Harvest Lemons
The tools needed to harvest lemons are few, but we wanted to make sure you’re completely prepared since you are looking to learn how to harvest lemons!
If you’ve got your lemon tree planted in the ground, a mature tree could grow up to twenty feet tall! Unless you are a giant, you are going to need a ladder’s help getting to the top branches to get a full harvest of lemons. Make sure to keep your feet firmly planted in the middle, not leaning to one side or the other.
A healthy lemon tree can produce over one hundred pounds of lemons in a single year! When you decide you’ve learned how to harvest lemons and you go get started, make sure you have a bag or basket with you to carry the fruits of your labor!
The best part about harvesting citrus is that you do not need any special tools. All you need are your two hands!
If you struggle with arthritis or have a weak grip strength, you could always use a pair of hand pruners to help get the job done. We have even got a list of the 6 Best Hand Pruners to help you choose the right one.
How to Harvest Lemons
The actual act of harvesting lemons is relatively simple, but knowing that you know how to do something is sometimes the thing that gives you the courage you need to actually do it!
To harvest a ripe lemon off your lemon tree, you are simply going to grab the whole lemon with your hand and twist it off the branch.
How to Use Harvested Lemons
Okay, so you have learned how to harvest lemons and now you’ve got a kitchen counter full of fresh lemons.
There are almost countless ways to use fresh lemons in food and drink (ever tried lemon mayonnaise? …it’s amayonnaising!), but we wanted to share some ways you might not know or have thought of.
- Face Scrub: Squeeze the juice from one whole lemon into a bowl. Add plain, granulated sugar to the bowl until there is enough for the sugar and lemon juice to create a paste. Then, get your face and hands wet with warm water and use the fresh lemon scrub to get your skin squeaky clean!
- Microwave Cleaner: Add half a freshly sliced lemon to a bowl of water and put it in the microwave. Microwave on high for somewhere between 5-10 minutes and then simply wipe all of the gunk off the walls and inside of the door of your microwave.
- Natural Potpourri and Humidifier: Slice up a lemon or two and put it in a pot of water. Bring the water up to a simmer and enjoy the fresh smell of lemon throughout your house. It also helps put some moisture out in your home if you live in a drier environment.
- Clean Your Stainless Steel: Lemon juice, salt, and a little elbow grease will get the stainless steel in your kitchen just as clean as conventional stainless steel cleaner!
How to Store Harvested Lemons
Now that you know how to harvest lemons, it’s important to know how to store them properly. Each tree produces hundreds of lemons every year and you don’t want your hard work to go to waste!
Fresh lemons can sit out on your kitchen counter for up to a week.
If you put your lemons in a baggie or other airtight container, you can put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and they’ll stay fresh for up to a whole month!
The freezer is also an option to preserve your lemons. You can pop whole lemons in your freezer in a freezer bag and they’ll stay good for somewhere between 3-4 months. The actual pulp will be unusable for anything decorative since it will be a bit mushy, but the juice will still be perfectly fresh.
How to Harvest Lemons FAQ
Here are some questions that are frequently asked about how to harvest lemons.
What if I pick a lemon too early?
When learning how to harvest lemons, it’s better to pick them a little early than too late. They ripen while they’re still on the branch, but once they’re overripe, there is no going back. You can pick them when they’re the right size and firmness and then let them continue to ripen in your fridge or on your counter if you are planning to use them soon.
Is it okay to pick a lemon if it’s still got some green on it?
Yes! It’s okay to pick lemons that still have some green on them. That doesn’t mean they won’t taste good or that they’re under-ripened. In fact, sometimes, if you wait until the entire fruit’s completely yellow, you’ll end up with an overripe fruit that you can’t use anyways.
Is a green lemon just a lime?
As much sense as this makes visually, no, a small, green lemon is not a lime! They look the same, but they’re two completely different fruits that are grown on two completely different trees and have two completely different flavors.
You’d be sorely disappointed if you picked an underripe lemon and expected it to taste like a lime!
How many lemons should I expect to harvest every year?
Lemon trees planted directly in the ground can grow up to 800 lemons every year once they’re full matured around year five or six.
Potted lemon trees are smaller, therefore produce less, but still average around 300 lemons every year once they reach maturation!
Wrapping up How to Harvest Lemons
Lemons are the multi-tool of the fruit world! They’ve got seemingly endless uses and bring a lot of value to the lives of those who grow them. Now that you know everything you need to know about how to harvest lemons, it’s time to get to harvesting and using them!
Ready for more lemon content? Next, visit our lemon trees page to discover more useful and fun information on lemon planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!
- About the Author
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Stephanie Lamberth is a writer who gained most of what she knows about gardening from summers spent on her family’s farm tending, picking, and storing the produce they grew.
Her family started and ran a thriving farm that fed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the community with fresh, naturally grown produce. She learned the effort and the reward of growing your own food!
Stephanie now lives in Tennessee with her husband and three kids. Their schedules don’t allow for a large garden, but she loves incorporating herbs from their flowerbeds in her kitchen and using her knowledge to help others.
Stephanie can be reached at email@example.com