Pomegranate shrubs (Punica granatum) usually begin producing fruits approximately four years after they've been planted. They grow in the warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11. Enjoy pomegranates with the fullest flavor by harvesting the fruits at just the right time.
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Count Down From Flowering
Flowering times are an important factor for knowing when to harvest pomegranates. Pomegranate trees produce their white or red blossoms in early spring, and the fruit will typically be ready to be picked approximately six or seven months after these flowers first appear. In many areas, these harvest dates range between August and December.
The Ripeness Test
Size and feel are important indicators of ripeness. When a pomegranate is ready to be picked, it should be the size of a softball and have a medium- to dark-red color with leathery skin. Tap it gently. If it makes a metallic sound when tapped, it's ripe. Finally, support a fruit in the palm of your hand. When ripe and ready to be eaten, the pomegranate should feel heavy and scratch easily if you press a fingernail into the fruit's surface.
Begin inspecting the pomegranate fruit on the tree six months after blossoms appear, testing the fruit daily for signs of ripeness. If you wait too long, the fruit can become too mature and burst open, ruining the fruit. Pomegranates continue to improve in flavor after they've been picked, but do not ripen further off the tree, making it essential to pick pomegranates right when they're ready.
To harvest pomegranate fruit, wipe down a pair of pruning shears with rubbing alcohol to sterilize them. Then, snip the pomegranate off of the tree, cutting the fruit and its stem as close to the main branch as possible. Never pluck a fruit by hand, as this leaves behind a stem on the branch. If a stem is left behind, it will rub against nearby fruit, damaging it.
Keep Them Fresh
You can eat a pomegranate right when you pick it by breaking it open to reveal the juicy seed sac, called the aril, inside. If you wish to store the fruit, keep it in a cool, dark area at a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The fruit's flavor will continue to improve at this temperature. You can store the fruit for a week or two. If you need to store it longer, bring the temperature down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, where the fruit may keep for up to three months.