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How to Tell if a Pomegranate is Ripe

If you’re wondering how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe, look no further. This delicious and exotic fruit is a much-loved addition to all types of cuisine and a thrill to grow in your very own garden.  

Closeup of two pomegranates on a tree.  Skin color is just one method for how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.

If you’re a fan of pomegranates, you’ll know that they’re notoriously tricky to deseed, so you want to make sure your fruit is ripe before cutting it open. What could be worse than going through all the trouble to scoop out each precious pomegranate gem only to find they’re unripe?

This sentiment rings true for those growing pomegranate trees too. You’re going to wait months for your pomegranates to ripen, so you should equip yourself with the knowledge you need to know when they’re ready to be picked.

Read on to find out exactly how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe, how to harvest them, and how to preserve your extras.  

When Are Pomegranates Ripe?

Pomegranate harvest season usually runs from mid-September through to late December or even early January in some regions of North America.

If you’re growing your own pomegranate tree, you can expect ripe fruits 6 to 7 months after flowering.

Yet, unlike apples, citrus fruits, or stone fruits, when it comes to pomegranates, it’s not always easy to tell if they’re ripe and ready to be harvested. Indeed, they are slightly different from other fruit in how they are composed.

Ripe pomegranates consist of a hard, leathery skin on the outside, with white pith and sweet seeds on the inside.

Macro view of pomegranate arils.

A pomegranate’s jewel-like innards are simply seeds surrounded by fruit flesh and juice known as pomegranate arils. These arils are delicious to eat and packed full of health benefits.

So now that you know what you’re looking for inside, how can you tell if a pomegranate is ripe when it’s still on the tree or when you’re buying it from a store or market?

Generally speaking, looking out for texture, color, weight, shape, sound, and taste is the way to go. Let’s look at these factors in a bit more detail.

The Texture Test

Commercial and hobby growers alike will agree that the skin texture of ripe pomegranates is quite distinctive and is best described as “leathery.” This is because when pomegranates ripen, their texture transforms to help contain the weight and build-up of juice and arils inside them.

To test the texture of pomegranate skin, you can run your fingernail or a sharp object across the fruit’s skin. If it scratches easily, take it as a sign that your pomegranates are ripe or approaching their mature stage.

Abrasions on pomegranates are normal and generally no cause for alarm. In fact, often, the ripest pomegranates will start to split due to the weight of their inner contents.  

Color Cues

View of ripe, red-colored pomegranates hanging on a tree.

While pomegranates are famous for their crimson skin, this distinctive color can’t help you too much when it comes to distinguishing unripe pomegranates from ripe ones, especially if they have already been picked from the tree.

But as a guideline: an unripe pomegranate will still show some green on its skin, whereas ripe fruits are uniform in color.

As mentioned, pomegranates are usually a crimson color, but this varies from more dull skin to a deep, rich red. Relying on color to determine how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe is best done in tandem with the other ripeness indicators discussed in this post.

Weight a Minute!

Surprisingly enough, the weight of a pomegranate is one of the most reliable ways of how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.

As these delicious fruits start to mature, they become heavy with pomegranate juice and fruit flesh inside, which significantly affects how they weigh in your hand.

Therefore, if you’re looking to test if a pomegranate is ripe, cup it in your hand and feel if it is weighty to the touch.  The heavier the fruit is, the more likely it is that it’s ripe.

You can undertake this practice while pomegranates are still on the tree or if you’re shopping for ripe fruit at the grocery store.

Closeup of hand cupping a pomegranate still on a tree branch -- the weight of the fruit is another method for how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.

Shaping Up

As pomegranates ripen, they change shape to accommodate the complex biology occurring inside them. Ripe pomegranates are usually flatter closest to their stems and at the spot where bud union first appeared.

Indeed, a perfectly round pomegranate is unlikely to be ripe, so keep a close eye on changes in shape and size. This will help you to ascertain whether or not your fruits are ripening.

A ripe pomegranate is about the same size as an orange but more angular in shape.

Sound Advice

This method for testing ripeness sounds a bit bizarre at first but actually makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Tap lightly on a pomegranate and listen closely. Unripe pomegranates sound hollow, whereas fruits that are full of juice and flesh will not.

This is a great way to puzzle out which pomegranates are riper than others.

Good Taste

Closeup of cut pomegranate halves.  Taste is ultimately the best method of how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.
Ultimately, taste is the best method of how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe.

It almost goes without saying, but the best way of how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe is to open one up and taste it.

Once you have inspected the fruit for color, texture, weight, sound, and shape, the next step is to crack one open.

If you are met with sweet-tart, juicy arils and a white pith membrane that comes away relatively easily, you are on the right track to a bountiful harvest.

However, even fruits on the same tree ripen over a couple of days or weeks, so keep looking for all the signs of readiness before picking.

Tips for Harvesting Pomegranates

For those fortunate enough to have their own pomegranate trees, harvest season is an exciting time. Six or seven months after the first signs of flowers, usually in late summer, you can expect to start picking your fruit. This is, of course, if your tree is mature and has reached its fruit-bearing age.

When picking pomegranates, avoid plucking them off the tree, as this may damage both its limbs and the fruits themselves. Instead, invest in a good pair of pruning shears, and snip off the fruit close to the branch, keeping the stem intact.

Basket of picked pomegranates.

Pomegranates don’t continue to ripen once they are off the tree, so it’s best to make sure your fruits are entirely ripe before harvesting them.

Once picked, make sure to handle the fruit carefully to avoid unnecessarily splitting the pomegranate’s skin.

All pomegranates need to be handpicked because they ripen at different times. This is even the case for commercial pomegranates.

Preserving Pomegranates

Once harvested, these fruits last well, sometimes even for months, ensuring they are always on hand when you need a burst of pomegranate goodness.

And the best news is that there are so many things you can do with this versatile fruit, from eating it fresh to incorporating it into a number of different dishes and preserves.

If you have an abundance of pomegranates, you can make tea, lemonade, fresh pomegranate juice or using it in salads. For an “adult beverage” made with pomegranate juice, here’s an idea to try.

A glass of pomegranate juice with sections of pomegranates surrounding it.

For adventurous people in the kitchen, there are also options like delicious pomegranate jelly or jam, or cooked recipes, like pomegranate tart.

If you have conquered extracting the juicy arils from your fruits and you want to keep them for later, you’ll be pleased to know that they can last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days and in the freezer for up to three months.  

However, if you notice a foul taste, soft spots in the flesh and skin of your pomegranates, and a brown, dull color inside the fruit, it may be that you’re dealing with overripe pomegranate seeds, and its best to dispose of them or compost them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it a good idea to keep pomegranates in the fridge?

A: If you’re storing pomegranates as whole fruit, you can store them in a cool, dry, ventilated spot away from direct light, or you can keep them in the fridge. The lower temperature in the refrigerator will keep them fresher for longer, so if you’re not planning to use your pomegranates immediately, rather keep them cold.

Q: Is pomegranate good for you?

A: Pomegranates are considered a significant superfruit, and studies have shown that the regular consumption thereof can be beneficial for heart and artery health. Research into the health benefits of pomegranates has indicated that they can improve blood flow and thereby reduce clogging.

How to Tell if a Pomegranate Is Ripe

Closeup of an opened pomegranate next to a whole pomegranate.

This delicious fruit may seem exotic and mysterious in nature, but if we monitor it closely, we find that there are a lot of tell-tale indications around its ripeness.

Looking, tasting, and touching goes a long way in how to tell if a pomegranate is ripe so that you can enjoy their jewel-like fruit to their full potential.

What are your experiences with ripe pomegranates, and what is your favorite way to preserve them? Let us know in the comments below.