Residents of the Texas Gulf Coast have a long-standing love affair with citrus. There is a diversity of tastes, texture and colors among the different varieties of citrus that we can grow successfully in our own backyards. And fall is the season when many different varieties begin to ripen, whetting our imaginations of toasting a successful growing season with a tall glass of harvested crisp, sweet citrus juices. Organizations like our very own Brazoria County Master Gardeners will host citrus tasting events this time of year in December to bring a little sparkle and shine to this somber season.
Citrus is a general term for fruit that includes lemon, key and persian lime, sweet orange, tangerine, pomelo, kumquat and grapefruit. Each of these types will have a specific season that they are ready for harvest. Citrus that mature this time of year include mandarin, tangelo, grapefruit and most oranges. Valencia orange is one exception, with a harvest target anytime between March through June. Lemon and lime can be harvested at any time during the year. Citrus stores well on the tree, and juice quality improves as the season lengthens. However, if left on the tree too long, the fruit will begin to dry out. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Aggie Horticulture program provides an excellent review of citrus culture. Written by Extension Horticulturist Julian W. Sauls, information provided is comprehensive, including a link to a chart listing citrus varieties and their approximate season of harvest: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/fact-sheets/citrus/.
While some citrus types will be listed as harvest ready between specific months (example: Grapefruit ‘Ruby Red’ can be harvested anytime between October through May), the best indicator for ripeness is taste and preceded by changes in rind color. Watch for the beginning and full blush on grapefruit, then choose one or two fruits on your tree to sample. If the sampled fruit has a full-bodied taste like you expect, then you can assume that similar colored/textured fruit are ripe for harvesting. An additional method is determining resistance of the fruit to picking. Ripe fruit should offer little or no resistance to removal from the tree. Proper handling includes grasping the fruit firmly and twisting, at the same time pulling away from the tree. My favorite personal story: one of my family members has what we affectionately call the “$55-dollar grapefruit.” I purchased a container grapefruit for my sister that produced one fruit this first season, and we’re anxiously waiting to harvest that one $55 blushing orb.
I invite you to share your ideas and successes in your garden by browsing online to my Facebook webpage: www.facebook.com/stephenbhorticulturist. Brazoria County AgriLife Extension continues to provide our community with quality programs that enrich lives. I invite you to visit our website to find out about public and professional development programs: https://brazoria.agrilife.org/.