Key limes are grown on evergreen trees that stand between 6 to 13 feet high, and can be quite prickly if you don’t watch out!
In this post, we take a look at the key lime tree, and how to harvest this alkaline fruit that is a necessary diet staple for all seasons.
Will Key limes Ripen off the Tree?
Most citrus fruits are generally not harvested until they have reached a certain level of maturity, which can be normally identified by a change in color.
Key limes, on the other hand, are normally picked before they change color completely, as they will ripen off the tree if they are not picked in time. As difficult as this sounds, key lime farmers know the timing of the key limes and will use different factors to determine the level of maturity.
One of these factors is by identifying the season that your key limes become ready, depending on the location you are in. For most farmers that are in the US, key limes are generally harvested in the summertime.
For farmers in Central, and South America, and the West Indies, key limes bear year-round, which can make it difficult for them to know when key limes are ready to be picked.
Related: How Long Do Key Limes Last?
When Key Limes are Ready to be Picked?
It may seem difficult to the naked eye to figure out when key limes are ready to be picked, but farmers, scientists, and backyard gardeners have narrowed it down to a tee.
Here are our two main tips and things to look out for to determine when your key limes are ready to be picked.
- Color – Unlike other citrus fruits that you can pick when they have fully changed colors, key limes are a bit different. If you pick a key lime that has fully turned yellow, it will more than likely already have passed the mature/ ripe stage and is heading to the overripe stage. The best time to pick a key lime if you’re focusing on the color is when they are yellow-green.
Picking fully green limes is also not beneficial because the limes will not continue to ripen after they have been picked.
- Texture/ Feel – Another easy way to know if your key limes are ready for harvesting is by touching them and paying attention to the texture. Mature limes will not be completely hard to the feel, but they will feel heavy and full.
Overripe limes tend to be squishy and softer, while green or immature limes tend to feel heavier.
These factors are the easiest way to determine if your key limes are ready to be picked. Farmers also recommend, just picking a few key limes as needed for recipes and drinks, and allowing them to ripen on the tree.
So what do you do if your key limes have fallen off the tree?
Do You Pick Key Limes or Let them Fall?
If you have a key lime tree, then you may also notice that they can fall off the tree even if you don’t pick them, but is this the best way to harvest them?
The prickly tree stems may make you want to wait until key limes fall rather than picking them, but this is not the best way to get the maximum benefits from key limes. It is best to pick key limes instead of allowing them to fall, as overripe key limes generally are less beneficial than their mature counterparts.
Key limes only fall when they have completely ripened, and are normally yellow. At this stage, they are sweeter and more acidic, making them limited in the benefits that they can give to your body.
When you pick them at their yellow-green hue, they are mature and more alkaline, which is crucial for the alkaline vegan diet. Picking your key limes at peak maturity is the best way to get the benefits that provide.
But how do you even pick ky limes with those prickly horns holding onto your hands? Let’s take a look.
How Do You Pick Key limes Off a Tree?
It may be tempting to just ‘leave it to the experts when you take a look at your key lime tree, but don’t give up just yet.
You can easily pick key limes off a tree by having the thorns removed completely from it, or using a small fruit picker. Bear in mind that this may take some work, but it will all be worth it when you have your delicious key limes.
For the first option, you can opt to have a gardener or horticulturist snip the thorns as your limes become more and more ready. This process shouldn’t damage your key lime tree, as long as it is done with care and expert knowledge.
The other option is to buy a fruit picker and do it yourself. This way, you are 100% sure that the integrity of your key lime tree remains the same and you don’t have to poke your hands into those prickly thorns. This technique does require a bit of knowledge how though and may be a bit difficult for someone new to limes.
Key limes, like all other citrus fruits, tend to change colors when it has reached full maturity, but unlike other fruits, key limes should be picked before they are fully ripe or yellow.
Paying attention to the color and weight of your key limes can give you a great indication of when they’re ready, but if you’re still not sure, it might be best to track them by season.
Lastly, there’s no shame in the key lime picking game! If you can’ pick them, let your gardener or someone with a little more skill do it for you. Harvesting key limes can be very difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with the process, but we hope this guide has helped!
Until next time, happy lime picking season!
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