How to Pick a Ripe Watermelon


Summer is watermelon season, and just as there’s nothing like biting into a perfectly juicy, sweet slice, there’s no disappointment like finding it tasteless and mushy. Unlike many other types of fruit, watermelon will not ripen any further once it’s harvested. It also doesn’t readily announce its ripeness; the rind doesn’t turn soft and it doesn’t emit a sweet scent. So how do you pick a ripe watermelon at the store?

There are many tips and tricks circulating, like a large amount of webbing is a good indicator, or elongated “male” watermelons are more watery and bland than rounder “female” fruits. The truth is, there are really only two or three things you need to look for to find the best watermelon in the bunch.

How to Tell if Watermelon Is Ripe

It Should Have a Pale Yellow Spot

Some sources suggest looking for darker green watermelons that aren’t too shiny, or to check the color between the stripes, but looks can sometimes be deceiving. What almost everyone agrees on is that you should check for a creamy yellow patch where the watermelon’s belly rested on the ground. This is known as the field spot. The whiter it is, the less time the melon had to ripen before being picked, so a deeper, more buttery shade suggests a better, sweeter flavor.

It Should Feel Heavy for Its Size

This can be hard to judge if you’re not used to hefting watermelons, but pick up a few of a similar size and see if you can tell that one seems heavier. That’s your best bet. When you’re weighing the merits of your melons, also check the rind; you shouldn’t feel much give since the outside of the fruit stays firm even when ripe. If there are any soft spots, pick another one, no matter how heavy it feels.

It Should Sound Hollow When You Thump It

Again, you’ll get better at this with practice, but if you tap or flick the underside of the melon, it should produce a deep, low-pitched, hollow sound, rather than a dull ping. (But know that this is not foolproof either.)

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What About Yellow Watermelons?

Yellow-fleshed watermelons are a natural mutation that look the same as your standard red or pink watermelon from outside, so you’d pick one the same way. You can expect it to be sweeter, with almost floral notes of honey, but you can also use it in all your usual watermelon recipes when you’re tired of eating it as a snack. Try grilling it and using it in watermelon drinks, and don’t forget to use the rind.

Can You Ripen a Watermelon?

Not after you buy it, no. If you get your watermelon home and find out it doesn’t taste like much, you can always try sprinkling it with gin to boost the flavor.

Header image courtesy of Raw Pixel/Unsplash

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