Q. When is citrus fruit ready to harvest?
A. Florida uses five indexes to determine maturity of citrus, including soluble solids, juice content, acid level, soluble solids/acid ratio and skin color. But, the home gardener can easily decide when most citrus types are ready to be harvested. As the fruit reaches full size and the skin color changes from green to greenish yellow to orange, simply pick some fruit and taste it to see if it is sweet. If not, wait a little longer (a week or two) and taste test another fruit. Meyer lemons are ready when the skin color changes from green to greenish yellow. Satsuma fruit may be ready to eat before the skin becomes completely orange, especially if the early fall is warm. Kumquats are usually at their peak in taste when they become fully orange.
Citrus fruit does not ripen additionally after it is harvested. So, let it mature sufficiently on the tree.
Harvest season for satsuma is October to December. Harvest season for Meyer lemon is November to March. Harvest season for kumquat is November to April. Most grapefruit have a harvest season from November to May. Harvest season for sweet oranges varies. Early season oranges are harvested October to January, mid-season oranges are harvested December to February and late-season cultivars are harvested March to June. Citrus fruit may mature a little earlier in the harvest season on mature trees and more toward the end of the harvest season on young, vigorous trees.
Q. What cold-hardy citrus is best for North Florida?
A. Citrus species are tropical and subtropical in origin. As a result, citrus is not well suited for extreme North Florida. Commercial citrus production has progressively moved further south in Florida due to historic freezes. So, you’d be wise to choose the more cold-hardy citrus types for our area. But, even cold-hardy citrus can be severely injured or killed by a hard freeze in North Florida.
Some of the better choices for cold-hardy citrus in North Florida include kumquat, satsuma, calamondin and Meyer lemon. There has been some success with grapefruit and sweet oranges in our area. Lemon and lime are much less likely to survive in North Florida. There has been some discussion concerning future success with growing citrus a little more north in its current range related to climate change. There already has been some success with growing the more cold-hardy citrus types such as satsuma and kumquat in middle Georgia. We’ll see how this works out.
More information on cold-hardy citrus is available from the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your County and through this link. https://crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/trade_journals/2018/2018_june_coldhardy.pdf