Pomegranate or Punica granatum are fruit-bearing trees from the Lythraceae family.
The fruits are red and round, low in calories, and packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Eating these fruits is believed to help improve heart health, so a lot of homesteaders try their green thumbs at growing them.
When to harvest pomegranate? Pomegranate fruits take five to seven months to mature and ripen enough for picking. Unlike other fruits, they stop ripening once picked, so it’s important to time your harvest right. Also, it can take five years before the trees can produce a large harvest.
How Do You Know When Your Pomegranate Is Ready to Harvest?
Pomegranate fruits are known for their vibrant red skin, sweet inner flesh, and crunchy seeds.
They are rich in vitamins K, C, and folate, as well as contain good amounts of fiber and antioxidants.
That said, you have to make sure you harvest them at the right time in order to enjoy these benefits. Here’s how you can say for sure that they are ready for picking:
The Tree’s Maturity
Ideally, you should start seeing a good yield around year two or three, but it can be longer. It will start producing fruits once it flowers, but full maturity is not achieved until the 10th year.
A mature pomegranate tree can grow anywhere from five to 10 meters tall.
To ensure good health, plant it in soil with good drainage and in a spot that receives full sun. You are more likely to find success growing them if you’re in USDA zones eight to 11.
Depending on the variety, pomegranate fruits mature and ripen at different times.
Some are ready for picking by September or October, while others take their sweet time and wait until early to mid-winter.
As mentioned, you’ll need to wait five to seven months from when the tree flowers in mid-spring into fall to start seeing fruits.
To give you an idea, the trees will often flower from April to June, which means the fruits will begin maturing at around September to November.
The Weight and Shape of the Fruit
Pomegranates become juicier as they mature, so you’ll notice a difference in their weight, too. You will also see the branches getting pulled lower because of the weight of the ripening fruits.
The seeds inside will swell up as the fruits continue to ripen. Because of this, pomegranates will look slightly angular and the blossom end and stem will appear flattered.
The Color and Texture of the Skin
Another good indicator of ripeness is the fruit’s color. When ripe, the most common varieties are either vibrant red or deep red with no traces of green.
As for the skin, it will turn softer and a bit rougher from being hard and smooth. You will also be able to scratch the skin with your fingernail.
Pomegranates with cracking skin are often ready for picking. If you notice most of the fruits on that tree are cracked, that’s a good indicator that you can start the harvest.
The Sound When Tapped
Tapping on a pomegranate fruit can tell you when it’s time for picking. A ripe pomegranate may produce a kind of metallic or hollow sound.
The Presence of Birds and Other Animals
When you see birds trying out your pomegranates for themselves, you’ll know the fruits are either mature or nearing maturity.
You can then sample a few to check if they are already ripe and leave the others to ripen for a few more weeks.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Pomegranates?
Pomegranate trees have been grown in areas with cool winters and hot summers for hundreds of years.
At full maturity, the trees can produce around 100 to 150 pieces of sweet and juicy pomegranate fruits.
That said, keep in mind that these fruits don’t continue to ripen once picked as other fruits do. As such, timing your harvest is crucial.
Ripe pomegranates will often have cracked skin, which means you need to eat them right away because they won’t do well in storage.
If you leave the ripe fruits on the tree for too long, they will begin to split open.
Rains and too much humidity can also make the skin of ripe pomegranates crack. While you can still harvest and eat them, you can’t expect them to last long in storage.
How to Harvest Pomegranate?
From being an exotic fruit, pomegranates are now prominent in many parts of the world. One reason is that it’s considered a superfood.
However, you can only really enjoy its sweet and nutritious arils when you harvest it at the right time. To make sure you do, here are the steps to harvesting pomegranate:
Step 1: Check for ripeness.
When you start seeing the signs that suggest your pomegranates are ripe, pick a single fruit and give it a taste.
Don’t hesitate to do this several times, trying out more than one fruit, to ensure they are ready for picking. Again, they don’t ripen off the tree, so timing is everything.
Step 2: Wear gloves.
Before you start picking, put on a pair of thick gloves to avoid getting pricked by the pomegranate trees’ large thorns.
These can easily puncture the skin, so it’s also a good idea to wear a long-sleeved shirt.
Step 3: Start cutting.
With your trusted gardening knife or shears, start cutting the fruits off from the branches.
Using a knife or shear is often preferred over pulling off the fruits to avoid damaging them.
This process also reduces the stress that the tree is put under, lowering the risk of diseases.
Make sure you clip the stem as close to the fruit as possible. This way, the woody stem does not cause bruising to the other fruits.
Step 4: Put your harvest in a basket.
Again, you would want to prevent bruising as much as possible, so carefully place each fruit in your produce basket.
Throw away any fruit that has been pecked by birds or chewed on by another animal. These likely have fungi or disease-carrying pathogens.
On the other hand, group pomegranates with split or cracked skin in a different basket. These should be eaten or used immediately.
Step 5: Continue caring for the trees.
As with any growing tree, your pomegranate will benefit from regular pruning to ensure proper development. You will want to get rid of dead wood or suckers.
It’s also a good idea to spray fruit trees like pomegranates during their dormant season. Doing so not only helps prevent diseases but also pest infestations.
You can do this up to three times every year.
Should You Wash Pomegranates After Harvesting?
If you used pesticides, it would be best to wash pomegranate fruits before storing them.
That said, you must allow enough time for them to dry completely to avoid mold growth and rotting.
When cutting fruits or vegetables with rind, you run the risk of introducing bacteria from the skin to the edible inner part. Hence, the importance of washing.
Make sure you do it thoroughly so as to guarantee that no other toxic chemicals are left on the skin.
Can You Eat Pomegranate Immediately After Harvesting?
As mentioned, you will need to eat cracked pomegranate as soon as possible. To do this, follow these steps:
Step 1: Remove the top.
Using a sharp knife, cut off the pointed blossom end of the fruit and slice through it to expose the arils.
Step 2: Score vertical lines on the skin.
Look for the ridges that separate the sections of the seeds and follow that with your knife all the way down the bottom, making sure not to cut all the way through.
If you do, you could damage the seeds inside.
Step 3: Put the slices in cold water.
When you do this, the seeds will sink while the parts you can’t eat float.
Step 4: Open the fruit manually.
Following the scores you made on the skin, start pulling the fruit apart to expose the red seeds.
Step 5: Push the seeds out.
With the sections still underwater, slide your fingers along the rind to remove the arils. The white, bitter parts will float to the top, which you can then throw away.
If you can’t do it by hand, you can use a spoon to scoop them out. Some even tap on the rind to remove any loose seeds.
Step 6: Remove the water from the water.
Grab a colander and strain the seeds. Then, remove any white membrane that’s stuck to the seeds before eating them.
How To Store Pomegranate
At room temperature, pomegranates can only last about seven days, so you will want to learn how to store them properly.
Pomegranate fruits with intact and uninjured skin can be stored in a cool, dry place for about one to three weeks. In the fridge, they can last for two months.
On the other hand, split pomegranate fruits are better off eaten immediately. The arils can last in the freezer for up to 12 months.
While growing pomegranate trees can take time, the fruits make everything worthwhile.
Ripe pomegranate fruits are not only delicious but also packed with all the good stuff. As such, it is an excellent addition to any diet.
You can eat the fruits as they are or turn them into a healthy and nutritious drink, add them to your smoothie, or mix them into your salads.