Tangerine Harvest Time: When Are Tangerines Ready To Pick

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By Amy Grant

People who love oranges but don’t live in a warm enough region to have their own grove often opt to grow tangerines. The question is, when are tangerines ready to pick? Read on to find out when to harvest tangerines and other information regarding tangerine harvest time.

About Harvesting Tangerines

Tangerines, also called mandarin oranges, are more cold hardy than oranges and can be grown in USDA zones 8-11. They require full sun, consistent irrigation and, like other citrus, well-draining soil. They make excellent container citrus, as there are several dwarf varieties available. Most varieties are self-fertile and are well suited for those lacking in garden space.

So when can you begin harvesting tangerines? It takes about 3 years for a tangerine to begin producing a crop.

When to Harvest Tangerines

Tangerines ripen earlier than other citrus so can escape damage from freezes that will harm midseason varieties such as grapefruit and sweet oranges. Most varieties will be ready for picking during the winter and early spring, although the exact tangerine harvest time depends on the cultivar and region.

So the answer to “when are tangerines ready to pick” varies greatly depending upon where the fruit is being grown and what cultivar is being grown. For instance, the traditional Christmas tangerine, Dancy, ripens from fall into winter. Algerian tangerines are usually seedless and also ripen during winter months.

Fremont is a rich, sweet tangerine that ripens from fall into winter. Honey or Murcott tangerines are very small and seedy but with a sweet, juicy flavor, and they are ready to pick from winter into early spring. Encore is a seedy citrus fruit with a sweet-tart flavor and is the last of the tangerines to ripen, usually in spring. Kara cultivars bear sweet-tart, large fruit that ripens in spring as well.

Kinnow has aromatic, seedy fruit that is a bit harder than other varieties to peel. This cultivar does best in hot regions and ripens from winter to early spring. Mediterranean or Willow Leaf cultivars have a yellow/orange rind and flesh with few seeds that ripen in the spring.

Pixie tangerines are seedless and easy to peel. They ripen late in the season. Ponkan or Chinese Honey Mandarin is very sweet and fragrant with few seeds. They ripen in early winter. Satsumas, Japanese tangerines called Unshiu in Japan, are seedless with an easy to peel skin. These medium to medium-small fruit ripen very early from late fall into early winter.

How to Pick Tangerines

You will know it’s about harvest time for tangerines when the fruit is a good shade of orange and begins to soften a bit. This is your chance to do a taste test. Cut the fruit from the tree at the stem with hand pruners. If after your taste test the fruit has reached its ideal juicy sweetness, proceed to snip other fruit from the tree with the hand pruners.

Freshly picked tangerines will last for about two weeks at room temperature or longer if stored in the refrigerator. Do not put them in plastic bags to store them, as they are prone to mold.

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