when-are-pomegranates-ripe

When Are Pomegranates Ripe? A Little Tap Will Tell You!

From their leathery red rinds to their curious, rounded-hexagonal shapes and crowning calyxes, pomegranates (Punica granatum) love being different. So much, in fact, that determining when they’re ripe requires relying on their own set of rules. Squeezing or smelling pomegranates reveals nothing; even their color can be misleading. For the tips you need to avoid wasting your time de-seeding unripe pomegranates, keep reading!

How Ripening Pomegranates Change

Regardless of where pomegranates grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 11, they all grow the same way: from the swollen ovaries of fertilized flowers.

Changing Color

Pomegranates change color through the growing season. In their earliest stage, they’re usually pinkish-red mottled with yellow-green. By mid season, they’re mostly yellowish green. When ripe, they lose the green and — depending on cultivar — may become:

  • Creamy white
  • Pale pink
  • Crimson red
  • Red mottled with yellow
  • Yellowish-brown
  • Deep reddish-purple

The crimson, red-seeded pomegranates familiar to most consumers come from ‘Wonderful,’ the most widely cultivated variety.

Changing Shape

As pomegranates ripen, the arils, or fleshy seed coverings, fill with juice and press up against their interior walls. Seen from the outside, the pressure changes them from nearly round to blocky and somewhat hexagonal. Their blossom and stem ends also flatten.

Changing Weight

Naturally, pomegranates get heavier as they fill with juice. Weight indicates ripeness much more accurately than color.

Changing Skin

Six or seven months in the sun transforms a pomegranate’s skin from glossy to matte and smooth to rough. The interior pressure also firms and tightens it. Unless the fruit is harvested, the skin splits. It’s the final stage of ripening.

Expert gardener’s tips:

  • Most pomegranate fruit ripens from six to seven months after flowering. This can be any time from late August for early-flowering varieties to November for later-flowering ones.
  • Splitting is most severe during rainy, excessively humid or foggy weather.

The Tap Test

Supermarket pomegranates are harvested just before they reach the splitting stage. Forget relying on cracked skin to gauge their ripeness; tap them lightly instead. The ones that make a tinny, “metallic” sound are ripe.

Harvesting Ripe Pomegranates

Have a backyard pomegranate bush or tree? Then start harvesting as soon as a few fruits split. Cut them with pruning snips, leaving as little stem as possible.

Even though ripe pomegranates twist easily off their stems, don’t pull them off. Doing so may damage them enough to decrease their storage life.

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