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When Is the Right Time to Pick Lemons?

When was the last time you picked your own lemons? 

Whether you’re a home gardener or just heading out to a citrus farm, the secret to a good harvest is knowing the right time to pick lemons. This article will walk you through everything you need to know to pick ripe, flavorful lemons. You’ll be an expert on picking lemons before you know it. 

And if you don’t have a decent picker, check out the Eversprout Telescoping Fruit Picker. I love the screw-on basket – it doesn’t come off and get stuck in the tree!

Let’s roll up our sleeves and harvest some lemons!  

Closeup of hand picking a lemon from a tree.  Knowing the right time to pick lemons is critical for making sure you have ripe, delicious fruit to use.
Knowing the right time to pick lemons will make sure you have ripe, delicious lemons to use.

Tips On When To Pick Lemons

Need the fast answer for when to pick lemons? These five tips will get you started. 

  1. Lemon trees can have ripe and unripe citrus fruit growing at the same time. Be careful which you pick!
  2. Lemons are ripe when they reach 2 inches in size.
  3. Lemons will have glossy skin and can be green, greenish yellow, or fully yellow when ripe.
  4. Lemons are citrus plants that continue to ripen after being picked. This means that ripe lemons can turn yellow after you bring them home.
  5. Lemon trees will bear fruit sometime between 4 and 12 months after the flowers blossom.

That’s the quick primer on picking lemons. However, if you want to know all there is to know about lemons, check out the articles on our website about different types of lemon trees, plus other informational articles about lemons. 

When Are Lemons Ripe

Closeup of a group of green lemons.
Some species of lemon, such as the Dorshapo, remain green even when ripe, so knowing your lemon tree’s characteristics is critical for determining when to harvest lemons.

Deciding on when to pick lemons can be a tricky topic. Lemons are a little harder to predict than other types of citrus trees.

Lemons don’t have seasons in the way that we commonly think of them. Lemon trees begin to produce fruit somewhere between 4 months to one year after flowers blossom. This means that your lemon tree could be fruiting in any season.

Typically, lemon trees will fruit in the winter.

You can tell when your lemons have ripened based on their size. They will be 2 inches in diameter when they are ready to be harvested. They might start to take on a yellow or greenish-yellow tint around this time. However, lemons can also be completely green fruit and still be ready to harvest.

When it comes to lemons, it’s the size of the fruit, not its color, that tells you when they are ripe and ready to pick. 

How To Harvest Large Amounts Of Lemons

If you’re growing your own lemons, you can harvest more by improving how you care for your citrus plants. This starts with proper watering and feeding your lemon trees.  

Water your lemons thoroughly through spring, summer, and fall. Cut down on watering during the winter to give the trees some time to rest. You should add fertilizer to the soil during the spring. 

Are you growing your lemons indoors? Lemon trees are a great choice for a potted indoor plant. Lemon trees are full-sunlight citrus trees. Place them in your home so they get at least six hours of sunlight every day. Ideally, you can put your potted lemon tree outside during the warmer months. 

When is the Right Time to Pick Lemons Infographic

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When is the Right Time to Pick Lemons Infographic

Preserving Lemons After You Harvest Them

Did you manage to grow your own lemon tree, but now you need to figure out what to do with all that fruit? 

Thankfully, lemons are one of the easiest fruits to preserve.

The simplest way to preserve lemons is just to freeze them. Lemons can be frozen whole, after being juiced, or sliced. They last for months in the freezer. The only trade-off to freezing lemons is that they’re going to lose some of their texture. 

This means you’re better off making desserts or cooking those lemons into recipes that don’t need them to hold their shape after freezing.

You can also make lemon preserves. You can do this by either pickling your lemons or candying them. Both are great ways to keep your lemons in the long term, though they do change the flavor of the lemons. 

Delicious Lemon Recipes To Try With Your Harvest

A glass of lemonade or lemon water with lemon halves and whole lemons around it.

There’s so much you can do with lemons. Here are some recipe ideas that will inspire you to use your freshly picked lemons.

You can start off with a classic and make some lemonade. Freshly squeezed lemon juice also makes a great addition to fish and poultry dishes. You can even candy lemons and serve them as a sweet treat.

You’ve done all this work to learn when to pick lemons and now it’s time to reward yourself with a little dessert. This Eggless Lemon Plum Cake is delicious. You can pair this cake with some fresh lemonade to really celebrate the citrus side of things.  

Lemon Harvesting FAQ

Got a question about harvesting lemons? Well, we’ve got the answer. 

1. How Should You Pick Lemons?

Man using a cutting tool to cut a lemon from a tree.  Knowing the right time to pick lemons as well as knowing how to correctly pick them go hand in hand.
Knowing the right time to pick lemons is only part of the equation — knowing how to properly harvest lemons for the best results is another important piece of information.

Picking lemons is a lot like picking apples.

You want to grab the lemon firmly in your hand and gently twist it until it breaks free from the tree. Make sure not to pull in the lemon as this can damage the fruit as well as the tree. You can use a clean, sharp pair of pruning shears to cut the lemons free if you’re unable to twist them off. 

2. How To Tell When Lemons Are Ripe?

It’s a little tricky to tell when lemons ripen. Unlike other fruits, we determine how lemons ripen based on their size and not their color. Lemons are ripe when they reach 2 inches in diameter. They can have a green, yellowish green, or even a fully yellow color and still be ready to pick.

Lemons will continue to ripen and turn yellow after being picked. 

3. How To Handle Lemons After Picking Them

View of lemons on a refrigerator rack, seen from below.  Once you know the right time to pick lemons, how to correctly pick them, knowing how to best store them is the final step.

Now that you know when to pick lemons, how do you handle them after they’re picked?

You should avoid squeezing or dropping the lemons to prevent them from bruising. Store your lemons in a box or a bag and keep that in the shade until you’re ready to head home.

Once you get home, store your lemons in the refrigerator on the rack. This will keep them fresh and ripe for up to a week. 

4. Are All Lemons Seasonal? 

This all depends on what types of lemons you are harvesting. Eureka lemons can be harvested all year long. Eureka lemon trees are known to fruit sporadically and can have ripe and unripened fruit on the same tree. This means that you can pick them throughout all of the seasons. Even a potted lemon tree has a variety of harvest times.

Meyer lemons, on the other hand, fruit from March through November. They have their best harvest during the winter when the fruit is ripe. Ripe lemons can hang on the vine for months without spoiling. This gives lemon trees a longer harvesting time than other fruits. 

So…When Is the Right Time to Pick Lemons?

Most lemon trees can be harvested all year long, but winter is the most common season for harvesting this fruit. You can tell a lemon is ripe based on its size, not its color. Lemons are ripe when they hit a 2-inch diameter and can be anything from green to yellow in color when ripe. 

Treat your lemons gently after harvesting. This fruit gets damaged very easily. You can store lemons in the fridge for up to one week and in the freezer for months. 

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!