Citrus Fruit Picking: Help, My Fruit Won’t Come Off Tree

Close up of a hand picking a ripe orange from a fruit tree
Image by Dcwcreations

By Amy Grant

You have waited and waited and now it looks, smells and tastes like it’s citrus fruit picking time. The thing is, if you’ve tried pulling citrus off trees and are met with great resistance instead, you may wonder “why won’t my fruit come off the tree?” Keep reading to find out why citrus fruit is sometimes so hard to pull off.

Why is Citrus Fruit Hard to Pull Off the Tree?

If your fruit won’t come off the tree easily when harvesting citrus fruits, the most likely answer is because it isn’t ready yet. That’s an easy answer, but one fraught with seeming debate. In a search on the internet, it seems that citrus growers are of two dissimilar minds.

One camp says that citrus fruit is ready when the fruit slips easily from the tree by grasping it firmly and giving it a firm, yet gentle, rotating tug. Another camp states that citrus fruit picking should only occur with the aid of garden shears – that pulling citrus off trees should be attempted at no time as it may damage the fruit or the tree, or both. I can certainly see this being the case if the citrus in question is really clinging to the tree and difficult to pull off.

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Both parties seem to agree that color is no indicator of the ripeness of citrus. Ripeness is, in fact, sometimes difficult to assess. Color has some bearing, but even mature fruit may have a hint of green, so this isn’t an entirely reliable determination. Aroma is helpful to determine ripeness but, really, the only trustworthy way to tell if citrus is ripe is to taste it. Harvesting citrus fruits is sometimes a little bit of trial and error.

All citrus is different. Oranges will often fall off the tree when they are ready for harvesting. Other citrus isn’t as easy to read. Some cling to the tree more than others. Look for citrus that has attained a mature size, smell it to see if it exudes a citrusy aroma, and then to be on the safe side, snip it from the tree using sharp gardening shears. Peel it and sink your teeth into it. Really, tasting the fruit is the only guarantee that citrus picking time is at hand.

Also, each growing year is different for citrus. Environmental conditions have a direct impact on how well, or not, the citrus will grow. Optimal conditions result in fruit that is redolent with sugar and heavily juiced. Fruit with a lower sugar content and less juice may be harder to remove from the tree.

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