How To Tell If A Watermelon Is Ripe

To say my daughter is a melon fan is a gross understatement. This child could live on melon alone, and left to her own devices, she probably would. Her favorite melon being the watermelon, we made it our joint mission years ago to learn how to choose the best one.

Even at 8 years old, you could find her hefting a watermelon to feel its weight. She’d walk around grocery stores, farmers markets, and roadside stands, turning the large, green fruit on its side to check its exterior and give it a good thump.

There is nothing worse than selecting what you thought was a good watermelon, only to bite into it and be disappointed. If you’re a fan of this sweet, delicious summer treat, it’s important to know the basics about how to tell if a watermelon is ripe.

The first thing to note is that unlike other fruits and vegetables, once a watermelon is picked, it will not continue ripening. Once harvested, it needs to be eaten within a couple of weeks. Keep this in mind before you make your selection.

Checking Ripeness At The Grocery Store Or Farmers Market

If you’re buying a watermelon that’s already been picked, here are the key things you’ll need to look for to make sure you choose a winner:

Look For Symmetry

While it may sound superficial, it’s for good reason that you’re going to want to find a watermelon that’s symmetrical and blunt on both ends. A melon that’s odd-shaped or pointy could indicate poor pollination and may not be fully ripe.

Look For The Field Spot

Lift that baby up and look for the field spot. This is the place where the melon sat on the ground.

If the spot is creamy and yellow, it means that the melon is ripe. If it’s still white, it was picked too soon.

Check The Exterior

It’s likely that you already know that the dark green color is best, but make sure it’s not too shiny. Also, check that it’s firm and that there are no cracks or deep scars.

Give It A Thump

You’ve probably seen plenty of people bent over a watermelon bin, thumping away on them. This is because a ripe melon has a nice, hollow sound, like a drum or knocking on a door. An unripe melon will be high pitched, and an overripe melon will give off a low tone.

Smell It

Admittedly, this works better for other types of melon, but it still works on a watermelon.

A ripe watermelon should smell slightly sweet, but not too sweet as that could indicate it’s overripe.

Lift It

A ripe melon should be full of juice and should feel heavy for its size.

Shake It

When you pick up the watermelon to feel its weight, give it a shake as well. If things are moving around inside, it could be overripe.

On The Vine

If you’re lucky enough to grow your own watermelon, or you’re picking them in a farmer’s field, there are a few things to look out for before harvest time.

Check The Date

Most watermelons stay true to their growing and harvesting schedule, so check the date they were planted against the estimated time they should be ready.

Also, observe whether or not they’ve made any changes. If they haven’t looked different for a while, they’re probably ready to be picked.

Check The Field Spot

For the same reasons as above, you’ll want to check the field spot for its color.

However, be gentle so as to not accidentally pluck it from the vine before it’s ready.

Check The Vine

The watermelon plant should still be green and healthy but look close to the melon itself. There is a curly tendril closest to the fruit that will look brown and dried when it’s ready to be picked.

If it’s green, it’s still not ready. If the entire plant is brown, it’s time to harvest all of the melons before they go bad.

Give It A Thump

Again, you can thump the watermelon and have a listen while it’s still on the vine.

Check The Connection

Look at the connection where the vine meets the melon. When it’s ripe, it may start to look cracked and turn brown.

Storing Watermelon

Contrary to what you may even see being done in a grocery store, watermelons love it warm. If they’re stored in a cooler, they become bland and mushy. For the best flavor, store melons at room temperature. Again, you’ve only got about two weeks after harvesting to eat them and only a few days after they’ve been cut into. Once they’re cut, then you’ll want to store them in the refrigerator.

If you’re ever unsure about choosing the right watermelon, don’t be afraid to ask the farmer who grew them or the produce manager at your favorite grocery store. Also, try to buy organic when that option is available to you. Watermelon is currently #32 on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list. Happy watermelon hunting!

Written by Jessica Barrett Halcom

Jessica is an outdoor enthusiast who can be found dreaming up any excuse to make her way to the woods, the mountains, or the beach. Growing up in the country in a small town in Wisconsin, she had aspirations of one day moving to a big city to make her living as a writer. Her love of the country won out over the city, and though she makes her living writing, she has chosen the hills of Tennessee as her home where she lives with her family.

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