If you’re anything like me, you’ll be impatient to get these lovely fruits picked so you can eat them! Some patience is needed here, as allowing them to fully ripen makes a world of difference to how they taste. Picked too early, they have no flavor at all and can be most disappointing. Wait a bit longer, and you’ll have succulent deliciousness. Here I’ll tell you more about how to pick dragon fruit so it’s always at its best.
What You'll Learn Today
How Do You Know When To Pick Dragon Fruit?
It is easy to judge when to pick your dragon fruits, depending on which type they are yellow, pink, or red.
The immature fruits are always green, when they change from green and take on a nice even color of yellow, pink, or red, wait for an additional three to four days, and they will be fully ripe and ready to harvest.
The harvest period is generally mid-summer through late fall. Again variety can influence this.
Other ways of telling if your dragon fruits are ripe:
There are small leaves on either side of the fruit at the bottom, these are known as “wings”. As the fruit is ripening, the wings start turning brown. Once almost fully brown the fruits will be ripe.
Count the days from when the plant flowered. It takes on average 27 to 33 days from flowering until fruits are ripe. Growing conditions, weather, and variety can also have a bearing on this. If sunshine is in short supply, it may take a bit longer than expected.
If you’re growing your fruits for commercial sale and need to ship them somewhere, it’s safer to harvest them the day after they change color, left for too long they will become too delicate and be damaged while in transit.
Does Dragon Fruit Ripen After Picking?
Most fruits can be picked when still slightly under-ripe and allowed to reach full readiness off the plant. This is beneficial to farmers, as very ripe fruits spoil more easily and have a shorter shelf life than under-ripe ones, mostly because they are harder and more difficult to damage.
Unfortunately, dragon fruits are unlike most other fruits and don’t ripen much at all once they have been harvested. This is why imported dragon fruits are so often disappointing and lacking in flavor. It’s simply that they are not ripe.
When you select dragon fruit in a store, ensure it is a good deep color all over and very slightly gives when you squeeze it gently.
How To Tell If Dragon Fruit Is Ripe?
As we learned above, dragon fruit doesn’t really ripen once harvested. When buying dragon fruit, try to select those that are grown more locally, at least in the United States or Mexico, as the riper they are when picked, the better they will taste.
Unripe dragon fruit has virtually no taste at all, which can be very disappointing when it looks so magnificent!
A good even color and flesh that gives just a little when squeezed is a good indication of ripeness.
In this video, you can see how to tell if a dragon fruit is ripe, what color the flesh will be and how to remove it from the skin:
How Can You Tell If A Dragon Fruit Is Sweet?
When you pick dragon fruit, make sure they are fully ripe first. The only real way to find out if a store-bought fruit is sweet is to taste it!
Different varieties of dragon fruit vary in sweetness:
- Sweetest = Yellow dragon fruit (Hylocereus/Selenicereus megalanthus) with yellow skin and white flesh.
- Fairly Sweet = Pink dragon fruit (Hylocereus guatemalensis) is available in a number of sub-varieties – American Beauty, Purple Haze, Dark Star, Cosmic Charlie, Makisupa, Delight, and Voodoo Child. It has pink skin and pink flesh.
- Fairly Sweet = Red dragon fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus) available in sub varieties – Zamorano, Red Jaina, Costa Rican Sunset, Natural Mystic. It has pink skin and purplish flesh.
- Slightly Sweet = White dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus) available in sub varieties – David Bowie, Alice, L.A. Women, Seoul Kitchen, Nietzel, Thompson, Lake Atitlan, Vietnamese Jaina, Guyute, and Harpua. It has pink skin and white flesh.
- Sour = Sour dragon fruit (Stenocereus). It has pink skin and white flesh.
The best way to ensure you get the best, sweetest dragon fruits? Grow them yourself and choose the yellow, pink, or red varieties. Even if you don’t live in southern Florida you can still raise them in a heated greenhouse or even inside your home if there is sufficient light.
How You Pick Dragon Fruit
Once your dragon fruits are ripe and ready to be harvested, first, you’ll need to remove the fine needle-like thorns they have. This can be done with a brush, pliers, or by plucking them off wearing gloves.
Usually, when the fruit is ripe, these thorns will begin to shed by themselves and won’t be too hard to remove. Be careful, however, as they can be sharp!
The fruits will need to be picked by hand, simply take the fruit gently in your hand and give it a twist. If it’s ripe, it will come away easily. If you feel there is still quite a bit of resistance, leave it for another day.
Don’t wait more than four days after the fruit has changed color, as if they become too ripe, they will fall from the plant and spoil.
If you’re picking the fruits commercially when they have only attained their ripe coloration for one or two days, you may find picking them by hand more difficult as they will be less easy to remove. Try using a sharp-bladed knife to cut them from the branch or a pair of secateurs or loppers instead.
Whatever fruit I grow, I’m always impatient for it to be harvest time. Somehow, any produce you raise yourself always tastes better than any you can buy from a store. It’s filled with the love you’ve given it, from the time spent tending and caring for it to finally plucking it ripe and delicious.
When picking dragon fruits, there isn’t too much to remember:
- Wait until they are fully ripe, four days after changing color.
- Remove any sharp needle-like thorns that remain.
- Twist with gloved hands, and the fruits should come away quite easily.
- Commercial growers cut the fruit off after one or two days from the color change.
- Don’t allow your fruits to become so ripe that they begin falling from the plant and spoiling.