Everything in yellow – harvesting and storing lemons correctly

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:15 pm

Citrus trees teach us patience above all. All year long, we can watch in anticipation as the pretty white blossoms very slowly grow into large, colorful fruits. Summer may be over now, but the bright yellow and orange globes on the little trees remind us of sunny days and bring some light into the dark season.

The harvest of lemons

Lemons have a fairly long ripening period overall. This is the same for all citrus fruits and ranges from 6 to 18 months, depending on the variety. The larger the fruit, the longer it takes to ripen. Varieties with small fruits, such as the calamondin orange or kumquat, ripen much earlier than varieties with larger fruits, such as the orange. The lemon is about in the middle range and needs about 7 to 12 months.

Everything in yellow - harvesting and storing lemons correctly
The small kumquats have a shorter ripening period than other citrus fruits

Everything in yellow - harvesting and storing lemons correctly

Properly care for lemons for a bountiful harvest

Lemon trees need a lot of sun for several reasons. They originally come from India and China, where it is much warmer than here in Central Europe. They also need a lot of energy for their long flowering period and the formation of the large fruits. Lemon trees store the collected energy and then put it into ripening their fruits and forming new flowers for the next year in winter. Therefore, you should always reserve for it a place in your garden as sunny and protected as possible. In order for the harvest to turn out well, your lemon must be properly cared for and overwintered – take another look at how to do it right.

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Harvesting lemons properly

One peculiarity about lemons and most other citrus fruits is that their color doesn’t tell you much about their ripeness. Green colored or spotted fruit does not mean that the fruit is necessarily unripe. In many other types of fruit, for example cherries or plums, the color indicates whether the fruit is ripe. Automatically we transfer this to the lemon and think that yellow fruits are also ripe.

Green does not equal unripe

Some supermarkets know this and take advantage of this fact by using ripening gases and other artificial aids. As a result, even unripe or green-colored fruits shine yellow from the shelves.

Yellow frost protection

But why do lemons turn yellow? It’s simple: the yellow color is a kind of natural antifreeze for the ripe fruit. If temperatures drop below 12 degrees, the coloration sets in. If the lemon stands cool enough during the winter months, the fruits of your tree will also turn yellow just in time for ripening. If it is too warm, the tree will not go into winter dormancy and the fruit will also remain mostly green, but it can still be harvested.

How can I recognize a ripe lemon?

You can recognize ripe fruits by the way they give way when you squeeze them with your fingers. In addition, ripe lemons give off a wonderful, intense fragrance. If the fruit is hanging on the tree and you twist it a bit, it should come off easily. If not, you’ll have to be patient.

If you don’t have any lemons of your own and you’re standing in front of the lemon shelf in the supermarket, you can tell now whether the lemons are really ripe or just look that way. Do not be fooled by green spots, but rely on your intuition and your fine nose.

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Harvesting & enjoying lemons correctly – the right time

Lemons are harvested between the end of September and March. This depends on how sunny the year was and how quickly the fruit was able to grow. If the color, consistency and smell are right, you can cut the fruit from the branch or twig with garden shears. It is best to harvest only as many fruits as you can use or store at once. It is better to leave the other fruits hanging on the tree until they are no longer hard as a rock. Once harvested, lemons do not ripen and keep much better on the tree! By the way, this also applies to all other citrus fruits.

Everything in yellow - harvesting and storing lemons correctly
Harvesting with scissors is recommended so that you do not tear the branches so much

Proper storage of lemons

If you want to use lemons fresh, you don’t need to do anything more than rinse and prepare them once. If there are more, proper storage is very important. Because who doesn’t know it: pretty much all of us have been surprised by furry mold that had spread between tangerine, lemon and co. after a few days.

Unfortunately, citrus fruits generally have the characteristic of being susceptible to fungi and diseases. If you want to store fruit, it is important to keep it protected and dry in a cool and dark place. The best way to do this is to wrap the lemons in kitchen paper towels. The paper absorbs the excess moisture and protects against pathogens. The wrapped lemons are best kept in the refrigerator, or alternatively in a cool, dark pantry.

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Vitamin bomb in winter: This is why lemons are so healthy

Freshly squeezed in mineral water, in pastries, with fish, in cocktails, salads, and much more: lemons are extremely versatile. The wonderfully fresh and sour aroma refines and completes countless dishes and drinks.

And the best: lemons contain super much vitamin C, which is especially advantageous in the cold season. A cup of hot lemon works wonders for a flu and strengthens the immune system! In keeping with the season, we have also prepared a small recipe for you, with which you can easily make a delicious lemon jelly yourself.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.