About 3 days after the dragon fruits have turned from green to red, you can harvest them. Look for a pink red color on the skin & scales. Try wiggling the fruits on the stem. If they are still a bit stiff, then they may not be that ripe. If they are quite loosened, then they're more ready for harvesting.
Lightly squeeze the fruits a bit. If they feel quite firm, then it may be early. If they are softer, they are good to go. You may also see some wrinkles on the skin of ripe fruits. This is another good way to tell.
As you can see in the pic above, the scales of the dragon are turning yellow & wrinkled. Their skin at this point are a bit softer & thinner. When you use a finger to slightly push into it, you may see a slight curve-down or impression on the fruit. The greener ones have thicker skin & firmer flesh. This one's flesh is a bit softer as well.
On the other end where flowers blow out, you can see the shrinking or wrinkling up of the skin. My mom trimmed the scales off on these ones for easier stacking & getting them ready for an important event–well consuming. I am not sure if it's necessary but she likes it though. The dragon fruit looks bald-headed.
Some people wrap a bag around the fruits as they have just turn pinkish red to make them sweeter.
Other folks like the fruits a bit sweet-and-tart so they pick them early. It's the best taste for them. If you like it firm, pick early while the scales are more green. If you're selling your fruits, take into account the shipping time. Because of this, growers pick the fruits earlier so they can still be in good shape when delivered to the stores or consumers.
As you can see here, the dragon fruit is harvested when the scales are still green. We see a little bit of branch left from the cut-off. It doesn't look too dry either.
Also, if the weather looks like it's about to rain the next couple of days, it's better to pick your ripening fruits earlier. The high humidity spike in the rain may cause the fruits to crack. Sometimes, a tiny bite of the fruit fly + the humid environment will give birth to little maggots near the edge of the cracked skin.
If we just leave the fruits to over-ripen on the trees, maggots will appear. You can tell this by peeling the skin of fruit and see the inside layer. If we see some little dots or scars, we know which 'partners in crime' have been messing around before us. It's something interesting to try & see.
If the fruit is a bit too ripe, then we may see some brown parts like this when cutting it open. It starts from the tip going in. Sometimes, if we leave the fruits laying there for too long without consuming, when we cut them & have a quick sniff, you'll notice a slight smell of fermented fruit wine or some tartness or something similar. Here you can see an example of the brown part:
Some random guy on YouTube asked this question a while ago: What causes the clear jelly part inside the dragon fruit flesh? To be honest with you, we don't know. But you may have seen something similar.
The clear jelly-like part is our favorite part of the dragon fruit. Because very often it is the softest, juiciest & sweetest part. The more opaque white part is slightly more tart & more firm.
It's easier to see when you hold the fruit against the lights. It may be a bit hard to see in this pic but you can see the part where it's turning quite translucent & clear. From our guess, this may happen when the fruit is over-ripe or more poetically on the edge of ripe & over-ripe.
Unlike some citrus fruits like kumquats, which stop ripening once they're harvested off the trees, dragon fruits will continue to ripen after being harvested. Because of this, when people buy the fruits (when their scales are still green), they leave them there for about a week or more to reach that soft & sweet state. It is the best taste that kids will love.
You can pick the fruits by hand. But it's easier to use a sickle or some pruners to cut them off. If you leave the flowers on, pull them off as they should be dry & brown now. Bring along some basket to put the fruits in. It is the most fun experience ever.
From some experience, growers share that the harvest times give different fruit results:
|November||Super sweet||Dragon fruits get full summer sunlight|
|December||2nd & 3rd pushes not so sweet||The weather has cooled down|
This is the observation in Australia! So the spring is from September to November. If the trees bloom in November, it will get the full summer sunlight from December to February. If it blooms later, the weather has cooled down a bit as they reach the autumn/winter season (March-May/June-August). Confusing at first, I know, if you're not from the area. But without the month names, the seasonal pattern is very similar & easy to understand.
Regarding the yield, some dragon fruit varieties give you 2-4 pushes a year. If you live someplace where it's warmer & humid year-round like Florida, you may get 4 harvests a year. In Southern California where it's more temperate, you may get two. The Asunta red-flowered variety currently gives only 1 push a year.
See some harvesting times in US vs Australia here:
- Dragon fruit blooming & fruiting in the US (around October).
- Harvesting dragon fruits in Australia (around March):
Picking yellow dragon fruits
If you're picking yellow dragon fruits, it's a different story. These fruits are really spiky. There's about 12 spikes per petal. So you might need some clippers, gloves & a brush. Even though a bit more time-consuming, it's really easy. Put your gloves on, brush off the thorns, then clip off the fruits. See it done here.
This is a specie of yellow dragon fruit. It's the Thai Yellow we believe. Unlike the spiky Palora, this one doesn't have thorns on the fruits as you can see. There's only scales on it like the red-skin one.
When they ripen, all of the scales will turn into a yellow color. The ripe fruits will also be a bit lighter than the greener ones because of the loss of moisture.
As you can see right below, this ripe yellow one is about 1.5 lbs (688 grams). It's about 20 grams (0.7 oz) lighter than the green one we saw above. It's the same fruit. Only difference is the weight after ripening.
Heading to a bountiful harvest
Harvesting yellow dragon fruits is a really easy & rewarding process. Have a bountiful harvest & enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Some other good info:
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