Assessing Ripeness of Seed and Fruit

You can see unripe ( green) pokeberries as well as the ripe black ones that this young cedar waxwing is contemplating.

How to tell when Seed and Fruit is Ripe for the Picking

How does one know when fruit or seeds are fully mature and ripe for the picking? It depends on the plant, but not all seeds or fruits on a given plant necessarily ripen at the same time.

Seeds: Seeds start off often green or white when immature. As they ripen, generally the seeds:

•  darken as they mature
•  mature 4-6 weeks after peak flower bloom
•  are fully dry when the whole flower head is fully crispy-dry including ¼” of the supporting stem below the flower. The outer husks of the seeds should shatter when you roll the dried flower between your fingers, releasing the seeds
•  detach easily from the stalk or pod

Fruits: Fruits often start out green and hard when immature. As they ripen they:

• change color
• become darker
• might get larger
• become softer
• loosen and fall from the plant more easily

It’s important to harvest plant foods at their proper time to maximize nutritional quality as well as to avoid toxins which could be associated with plants harvested out of season or when immature.