Citrus in the Kitchen & Harvesting
Citrus flowers are all edible. Just pull them off the tree, wash them gently, let them dry a few minutes on a clean paper or cloth towel, and then add them to salads, teas, or soups. Or let them dry to keep for future use.
Of course, you don’t want to strip the tree of many flowers that might turn into fruit, but nature provides many extras. Take a few from several bunches rather then a whole bunch from one place.
Citrus fruit eaten whole and fresh is low calorie, fat free, cholesterol free, refined sugar free, fiber rich, and loaded with important vitamins and minerals as well as being delicious.
Citrus and related fruits will not ripen after being picked, but they will stay in prime condition on the tree for many weeks or months, depending on the variety and barring a freeze that goes below 28 degrees F. If cold weather forces you to pick more than you can use, fruit will keep several weeks in a cool place.
Otherwise, leave fruits on the tree until needed or as long as they are in prime condition.
This requires knowing what variety you have and the months its season for picking covers. Do not depend on the color. Some kinds like the Ponkan, Oroblanco and Satsuma can be ready when they are still mostly green. Valencias are orange months before they are sweet and sometimes get lighter or even turn back to lime green when fully ripe. Taste is the test.
If you lost the tag or never knew the variety name, or if you got the fruiting trees with the property and don’t know the kinds, you will have to taste and learn by experience.
If you notice that wildlife is eating your fruit, you can be sure it is ready. Animals know to the day. The trick is to get there a day ahead.
How to Harvest Citrus
When you pick citrus, take hold of the fruit and give it a quick twist. Some types, especially Tangerines, are best cut off. If picking opens a hole at the stem end, use that fruit quickly or it will rot.
Pick the larger fruit first because they tend to dry out toward the end of their season, especially the Navel Oranges. They are still good, but not nearly as juicy.
My husband fixed a claw type cultivator on a longer pole with masking tape so we can reach the tops of the trees to take off the high fruits. You can also buy harvesting poles that include a basket and a sponge for catching the fruit. Only Pummelos seem to split from a high fall, and they won’t fit into those catchers. Use a ladder for them if necessary. They are well worth the trouble.