Ripening Apricots on and off the Tree

The flavor of a fully ripe apricot is one of the joys of summer. Apricots are among the earliest fruit ready for harvest each year, but sometimes they take their time, remaining green for what seems like too long. This can be caused by inadequate irrigation, not pruning enough, or growing a variety with a longer than average growing season.


When Are Apricots Ripe and Ready for Harvest?

Apricots trees flower in late February or early March, and the flowers develop into ripe fruit in 100 to 120 days after bloom for most varieties. However, apricot trees need to grow for three to four years before they begin fruiting.

The fruit on apricot trees does not ripen all at once. Some fruits are ready to pick while other fruits are still green, so plan on harvesting apricots over a three-week time span, picking ripe fruit and letting the others remain for a bit longer.

Apricots have the most flavor and best texture when they are ripened on the tree, and because they are so delicate, tree-ripened fruit is hard to find in the grocery store. This makes growing apricots at home especially rewarding, because it is the only way of having this delicious fruit picked at its prime.

The way to know apricots are fully ripe is to watch the color of the fruit carefully. As they ripen, the color changes from green to yellow to a deeper yellow-orange. Also, the flesh of ripe fruit gives slightly when you squeeze it.

Factors Affecting Ripening of Apricots

If you have an apricot tree with fruit that does not seem to ripen up correctly, there are several possible causes.

  • Make sure you are watering and caring for the tree adequately. When apricot trees are stressed, fruit may not ripen properly.
  • Thin the fruits when they are approximately 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter, leaving three or four fruits in each cluster. By thinning out excess fruit, the tree can devote its energy to fully maturing and ripening the remaining fruit.
  • Prune apricot trees in late winter for best fruit production. Pruning encourages new fruit-bearing growth and removes excess leaves which can shade out fruit, lengthening the time it takes for fruit to ripen fully.
  • While most varieties of apricot are ripe and ready for harvest in June and July, there are a few which take longer to mature. Check on the days-to-maturity of fruit for the variety you are growing.

If you pick some of your apricots a little early and want to ripen them a bit more, place them in a paper bag on the kitchen counter along with an apple. Apples give off ethylene gas, which hastens fruit ripening.