Nothing screams summer like a ripe, juicy watermelon – except maybe drinking it, grilling it, or enjoying it in a salad. Packed with lycopene and vitamins A, B-6, and C, watermelon is one of the most nutritious fruits worldwide!
Ripe watermelons are even believed to offer protection against diabetes, heart diseases, and certain types of cancer! Unfortunately, the only best way to tell whether or not a watermelon is ripe is by slicing it and taking a bite.
But, if you don’t want precut products, it can be hard to pick a juicy and sweet watermelon based on its appearance. This article will discuss the nine best ways to pick a ripe watermelon.
Feel free to jump ahead!
What is a watermelon?
Scientifically known as Citrullus lanatus, the watermelon is a vining and flowering plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family of species. Botanically, watermelon is a fruit because of its development process – its plant bears fruit after the flowers bloom.
Ripe watermelons have a light sweetness that accommodates a bunch of summer flavors. And unlike most fruits, the watermelon doesn’t continue to ripen after it’s plucked, so the timing matters a lot.
Let’s see some indicators that your watermelon is ripe and ready for picking.
How do I pick a ripe watermelon?
Picking ripe watermelons doesn’t have to be complicated. And while gardening experts advise thumping the fruit with your knuckles and listening to a hollow sound, there are more ways to tell if the watermelon is ripe, including through its appearance.
Here are nine tips to help you pick the ripe watermelon:
Tip #1: Find the field spot or the yellow belly
The ‘field spot’, or where the watermelon rests on the ground, is the first thing you need to check when picking a watermelon. If the watermelon is ripe, the spot should have a butter-like yellow color.
However, if the spot is pale, smaller, or looks more white than yellow, the watermelon isn’t ripe and should be left longer before picking it.
Tip #2: Look for webbing
Vein-like webbing and dry weathering spots are excellent indicators of ripe and extra sweet watermelons. These brown marks show bees pollinated the flower well during its growth.
So, the next time you go shopping for watermelons or pick some from your garden, ensure you inspect all sides of the fruit before committing to one.
Tip #3: Hollow thump
Another very effective method of picking ripe watermelons is to tap them with your knuckles and listen to the hollow thump. A deep and rich sound indicates that a more significant percentage of the melon is water, ready for consumption.
Avoid the melons with a dull or high-pitched sound, as most are overly ripe or not ready.
Tip #4: Heavy weight
The perfectly ripe and juicy watermelon should feel heavy for its weight. Remember, 92% of the watermelon is water content, making it heavier than usual.
However, the weight isn’t always the most reliable trait for sweeter and ripe melons. A heavy watermelon may be overripe and less sweet, so use the melon’s weight with other indicators like the field spot to pick ripe fruit.
Tip #5: Check the shape
Symmetry is key when picking ripe watermelons.
Round and symmetrical watermelons are the best. The uniform shape indicates that the melon is watered evenly throughout its growth.
Watermelons with irregular bumps, odd lumps, or one bigger side than the other may have experienced seasons of overwatering and drought. The oval or oblong melons (males) tend to be waterier and less flavorful and sweet.
Tip #6: Inspect the color
A darker-colored melon means that the fruit was allowed to ripen more fully on the vine and will most likely be sweeter and juicy. Again, it’s always advisable to use this tip along with tips listed in this post to land yourself the perfect watermelon.
Tip #7: Texture and rind glossiness
This is one of the best visual indicators of ripe watermelons. If the rind is smooth and glossy, your fruit isn’t ripe yet. The rind becomes rougher and dull to the touch when it’s in the sweet, juicy stage.
Also, you may puncture the rind using your fingernails: if it breaks easily, then it’s not ripe yet. However, if you can’t penetrate it using your fingernail and it has other indicators described here, then your melon is ripe.
Some experts also state that the green stripes become darker when your watermelon is ripe and ready to be picked. However, this tip is only helpful if you already have an unripe watermelon to compare with.
Tip #8: Plant Indicators
The watermelon plant will ‘tell’ you when the melon fruit is ripe and whether it will have the perfect deep color and sweetness inside. The curly tendril on the main vine closest to the fruit will turn crispy and brown, indicating that the melon is sweet and ready to refresh you and your friends.
Also, the leaf growing nearest to the fruit may develop the color yellow when your melon is ready for harvesting.
Tip #9: Time to maturity
You can sample the ripeness and sweetness of your melons by randomly picking several of them from the field around their estimated time of maturity. This method works, but only for commercial watermelon growers.
If you have a few watermelon plants in your garden, you may not have the luxury or will to sacrifice some. Other better indicators can help you determine if your melons are ripe if that’s the case.
How do I spot a damaged watermelon?
At times, the spoiled watermelons smell and look just fine. This is especially the case with already-cut melons sitting in a container in your refrigerator for days.
Spoiled or damaged watermelons may not be safe to eat and may lead to such diseases as diarrhea. The good news is that you can tell between a bad and good watermelon using several tips, including:
- Black spots: These spots show the presence of bacteria or fungus, meaning the watermelon is bad
- Rind worm injury: Resulting from insect feeding, this injury presents itself as an irregular white to a light-brown pattern on the melon’s rind.
- Tangy or sour smell and taste: This one is pretty obvious; your watermelon is likely gone bad if it has a fermented or tangy smell and taste
- Water-soaked flesh: If the melon’s flesh starts to sag, disintegrate, and darken, it can indicate the presence of a fungal infection.
- Internal rind spots: This is a bacterial illness that manifests itself as a tan or dry brown tissue on the inner side of the rind.
- Target cluster: If you notice a target-like configuration on your melon, it can indicate the presence of a virus.
How do I store watermelons?
Storing watermelons and keeping them fresh is not a straight forward process. Below are some tips on how to storing watermelons and keeping them fresh:
- Keep your watermelon in a cool place. Room temperature is ideal for storing watermelons, but it is even better if you have space in your refrigerator.
- Just make sure that it isn’t too warm or too cold — somewhere around 50 degrees F is perfect for keeping your melon fresh for a long time.
- Keep it away from sunlight. Watermelon does not like light at all — expose it to direct sunlight too much, and it will turn brown or even rot!
- Don’t wash it before storing it. Watermelons can retain their flavor for up to two weeks if they aren’t washed before storing them. Washing removes part of the flavor molecules from the surface of the fruit, so don’t do it unless absolutely necessary!
Watermelons Storage: Which Is Better: Refrigerator or Counter?
The answer depends on what type of watermelon you’re buying. Watermelons are divided into two main types: “icebox” and “field” varieties.
The icebox variety has a thin skin and tends to be more cylindrical, while field watermelons have a thicker rind that is more spherical in shape.
If you buy an icebox variety, it’s best to keep it out of the refrigerator. Icebox watermelons don’t hold up well when chilled, so keeping them at room temperature will make them last longer than putting them in the fridge.
Field varieties, on the other hand, should be stored in the fridge because they have thicker rinds that can withstand being chilled without getting mushy or damaged by ethylene gas (this happens when other fruits are stored near each other).
Refrigerators are great at preserving food because they keep it cool and moist, which slows down the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage. But when it comes to watermelon, refrigerators can still get too cold for long-term storage.
Watermelons need a temperature range between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit for best quality.
Temperatures lower than 45 degrees will cause chilling injury in the fruit, which shows up as cracks in the rind and discoloration on the flesh inside. Chilling injury will also make the flesh taste bland or bitter.
If you have a refrigerator that stays below 45 degrees, consider putting your watermelon on top of a tray of ice cubes.
The final thoughts
Watermelon, one of summer’s cool, shivery treats, can be a blast or a bust. You know that feeling when you expect sweetness but instead, get a ho-hum mouthful of watery nothingness.
Picking a sweet and ripe watermelon can be tricky. Internal indicators, such as a sweet taste and red flesh, are the only definitive factors when determining the ripeness of a watermelon.
If you want to eat a sweet melon this summer, use this guide to help pick the best one. Once you’re done using these guidelines, any melon shopper should be able to pick out a sweet, juicy melon.