Lemon Harvest, Ripening, and Storage

Lemon trees may have fruit at different stages of development at the same time. Harvest only mature fruit, which have a light green peel color. Lemons are typically picked green when about 1 ½ to 2 inches (0.6-0.8 cm) in diameter and allowed to cure. Curing involves placing the green fruit at room temperature and allowing the fruit to slowly become yellow, during which time the peel becomes smoother and the juice content increases. The fruit may then be stored in polyethylene bags in the refrigerator for several days to a week.

Lemon Citrus Tree Production

Lemon tree fruit production may occur throughout the year, but depending upon cultivar, climate, and cultural practices, the major harvest season may be during summer, autumn, or winter (Davies and Albrigo, 1994; Morton, 1987). Young trees usually begin fruit production in the third year, yielding approximately 38 lbs/tree (about 17 kg/tree) but quickly increase to over yields of 100 lbs by the fourth or fifth year (Takele and Mauk, 1998). Typically, yields for mature trees range from 100 to 200 lbs (45–91 kg) per tree per year (Morton, 1987).

Lemon Fruit

The fruit is oval, typically with a nipple-like apex at the stylar end, and ranges from 2.0–4.8 inches (5–12 cm) long (Morton, 1987; Tucker and Wardowski, 1976) (Photograph 1). Fruit shape is influenced by temperatures, with fruit produced during summer and autumn relatively round, whereas winter and early spring fruit are oval (Davies and Albrigo, 1994; Monselise et al., 1981). The peel is light-yellow to yellow, 0.25–0.38 inch (6–10 mm) thick, smooth to rough, and dotted with oil glands (Davies and Albrigo, 1994; Jackson, 1991). The pulp is divided into 8–10 segments, pale-yellow, juicy, and acid. Some fruits are seedless, most have a few seeds; seeds are small (0.38 inch; 9.5 mm long).

Source: Lemon Growing in the Florida Home Landscape an IFAS published document #HS402. First printed: Original publication date December 2010. Reviewed July 2013