Papaya Harvest Time: Tips For Picking Papaya Fruits

Tree With Green And Orange Papayas
(Image credit: Naypong)

When you planted that young papaya plant in your backyard, you may have thought that papaya harvest time would never arrive. If you have fruit ripening, it is probably time to learn the ins and outs of harvesting papaya fruit.

Picking papaya may not seem like a daunting task, but you’ll need to know when the fruit is ripe. Read on for tips on how to know when it is time to start harvesting papaya fruit as well as information on papaya harvesting methods.

Picking Papaya

A papaya plant grows tall like a tree but isn’t actually a tree. It is called a “tree-like” plant and grows a little taller than the average gardener. Its “trunk” is a single, hollow stalk that produces leaves and fruit at the top.

If you are hoping to see papaya harvest time, you’ll need a female plant with a male plant in the vicinity, or a self-pollinating hermaphrodite plant. In order to start harvesting papaya fruit, you’ll have to allow the plant to first grow to maturity.

How to Harvest Papaya

A papaya plant will mature in six to nine months if you live in a warm region but may take up to 11 months in cooler areas. Once the plant is mature, it will flower in early spring and can produce as many as 100 fruits in summer or fall.

While most species of papaya produce fruit that is yellow, others ripen into orange or red. All of them first go through an immature “green” phase, during which they are known as green papayas.

Papaya harvest doesn’t ever begin before the moment called “color break,” when the papayas begin to transform from green to the mature color. Keep your eye on the blossom end, which is the first part of the fruit to turn.

Papaya Harvesting Methods

For home production, it isn’t likely you will need to use any fancy papaya harvesting methods. These are generally only necessary for commercial production. If you are wondering how ripe the fruit should be when you pick it, here are some tips.

Those growing for export harvest the fruit before they are 1/4 yellow. However, the fruit flavor is best when the skin is 80 percent colored. Home growers should harvest when the fruit is between 1/2 and 3/4 the mature color. These will be sweeter since papayas do not increase in sweetness after picking.

What is the best papaya harvesting method for home orchards? Yep, it's handpicking the fruit. If your tree is small, just stand on the ground. If it is larger, use a ladder. You can use a knife or pruners to make a clean cut.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.