If you’ve been to the grocery store recently, no doubt you’ve seen the big bins filled with warm weather’s bounty – watermelons. There’s nothing better than cooling off after a hot day with a perfectly chilled slice of this juicy fruit. But buyers beware – there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to selecting the ripest melon.
There is an art to selecting the very best watermelons. By using a few simple techniques, you’ll avoid the disappointment of humping a prized fruit home only to find it mealy or (worse yet) dry when you slice it open. Before you make your next shopping trip, familiarize yourself with our list of how-tos for picking the perfect fruit.
1. Give ‘em a lift – Maybe this is an obvious point, but watermelons are primarily made of water. If you pick up a melon that feels light for its size, the fruit is probably dry. On the other hand, a ripe, brimming-with-juice watermelon will feel heavier than it looks. Don’t be shy – pick up a few for comparison before making your selection.
2. Just say no to stem – If a watermelon still has a stem on it, keep searching. A still attached stem indicates the melon didn’t come off the vine easily, which means it wasn’t quite ripe when it was picked. Look for melons with a slightly indented end where the stem would be. This little notch indicates the melon fell off the vine on its own after fully ripening.
3. Color check – The ideal watermelon should be a very deep green. Lighter colored watermelons probably didn’t ripen long enough on the vine. When inspecting color, look for the signature contrasting dark green with lighter stripes to find a winner.
4. Check out the bottom – Once a watermelon is pulled off the vine, it doesn’t ripen anymore. Some farmers pluck watermelons off early in their haste to get them to market. Take a look at the bottom of the melon – there should be a creamy patch of color on the underside. The bigger and darker this spot is the riper the watermelon.
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5. Shape and shine – See a melon with lumps, bumps, or indentations? Keep moving. Watermelons should have a uniform, oval shape. An even shape means the melon got plenty of water and sunshine to grow properly. When it comes to shine on the fruit’s skin, this isn’t a good look for watermelons. A shiny exterior indicates the melon isn’t quite ripe.
6. Who’s that knocking? – If they aren’t already, farmers markets will soon sound like a drum circle, with shoppers trying to thump their way to the ripest watermelons. Does this traditional approach to melon selection really work? Commentators on the topic are divided. Some folks say knocking is pointless, and point to looking at the color, shape and yellow spot for better results. Other pickers believe holding the watermelon (as if you’re cradling a baby) and giving it a good thump tells you about the ripeness. If the melon is ready, you should feel the vibrations in your bottom hand. I say give it a knock, if for nothing but old time’s sake. Just make sure you check out the other signs, too, before you make your final selection.