I know what you are thinking. Find the biggest watermelon tree, climb up it… First off, watermelons don’t grow on trees. Secondly, we don’t mean how to pick a watermelon in that way! We are, of course, talking about choosing the best melon that you can get when you are at the store or grocery. The good news is that once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to find a watermelon that is plump, crisp, and juicy. Every. Single. Time. Here’s all you need to know.
What are Watermelons?
Do you want to sound all clever? The Latin name for watermelon is Citrullus Lanatus, and it is actually part of the gourd family.
If you don’t know what a gourd is, let us enlighten you. Pumpkins, butternut squash, and cucumbers are all part of the gourd family too. When you think about it, they all have similar qualities. A thick skin, flesh that is laden with moisture with central seeds. They also grow on the ground.
You only get watermelons from the female plants. The male plants have bright yellow flowers that pollenate the female plants.
Depending on the melon you pick, you’ll find a range of different varieties and flavors. Some melons, such as the cantaloupe, are small, yellow, and have dense light green flesh that is really firm. Honeydew melon is medium-sized with yellow skin. They aren’t quite as firm and feature pear-colored flesh.
And then we have the watermelon with its tough green striped outer skin and red or pink flesh. They are really high in water content and are one of the most refreshing fruits around. Today we’ll focus entirely on the watermelon and how you can pick a good one.
How Can you Tell if a Watermelon is Sweet?
There’s actually a pretty easy way to tell if a watermelon is likely to be sweet at a glance.
Want to know the secret?
Look for a yellow patch on the end of the watermelon. This absolutely doesn’t mean that the melon is bad. Quite the opposite. Here’s why finding a large yellow spot on your melon is a really good thing.
The yellow patch is caused by the melon resting on the ground as it grows. The longer it has rested on the ground, the more it has ripened on the vine, and the juicer and sweeter it will be.
But there’s something you need to be aware of.
Notice that we said look for a yellow spot. If the spot is white, don’t go there. A white spot indicates that the watermelon was picked early. White spot watermelons tend to be less flavorsome and a little bland tasting.
Which End of a Watermelon is Sweeter?
Watermelon is an entire fruit, filled from top to bottom with juicy red flesh. When it comes to it having a ‘sweeter and less sweet side, it doesn’t exist, and that’s what we love about them. From one end to the other, watermelon is sweet all the way through. Knowing how to pick a watermelon ensures that this will be the case.
How Do You Ripen a Watermelon?
Ok, so you’ve decided to go against our advice and pick any old melon. It doesn’t tick any of the boxes below. And now you are looking for tips to ripen it up, so it turns juicy and sweet.
We’re afraid you are out of luck!
Watermelons are pretty unique as fruit goes. Here’s why.
Watermelons only ripen while they are on the vine. Or to put it simply. Once they are picked, they don’t get any riper. With watermelons, it really is a case of what you see is what you get.
There isn’t a way to make a bad melon good when it comes to ripeness. There are, however, a few tricks to make them taste a little nicer.
How to Sweeten a Watermelon
Making your watermelon taste sweeter is all about fooling your brain. Here are a few ways to get a little taste if you haven’t picked the best watermelon…
It is all about creating a contrast. Cut your melon as you usually would, and then give it a little drench in either lemon or lime juice. Some claim the acid interacts with the sugars in the melon. We are more of the belief that when compared to the tart sourness of the citrus fruit, the melon tastes just that little bit sweeter.
If you really want a melon to taste sweet, a teaspoon of sugar can supplement everything that the watermelon lacks… Or you could just, you know, follow our guide and pick a sweeter melon.
Add a Pinch of Salt
This one is a little leftfield, but we’ll go with it. Again by adding a hard contrast, you’ll be able to really taste the sweet flavors of that melon. Don’t go overboard if you try this technique. A pinch of salt will do it.
How to Pick a Watermelon?
Alright, so this is why you are here. It’s pretty easy to do if you have the know-how. Here is how to pick a watermelon.
1. Watermelon Appearance
What you are looking for in a good watermelon is consistency. Each batch of watermelons is different. Things such as vibrant, heavy stripes don’t necessarily mean that you will get a good melon. You will definitely want to pick a melon that doesn’t stand out against the crowd.
What do we mean?
If all the other melons in a pile are dark green and there is one that is light green with really vivid stripes, does that mean it is better? Probably not. Look for uniformity with the other melons around it.
Misshapen melons of different sizes or different colors haven’t been grown in the same conditions. They may have been subject to a lack of water or sunlight at some point in their life.
2. Do the Spot Check
As we said above, you are looking for a large yellow spot. The larger the spot and the more yellow it is, the better.
Thank us later.
3. Watermelon Weight
Ok, so you’ve found a uniform melon with a massive deep yellow spot.
Now it’s time to get physical.
Pick the melon up and give it a heft in your hand. How does it feel? Is it heavy or light? Bearing in mind that most melons are about the same size, more weight is a good thing.
It means that your melon has taken on a lot of water. Those juicy cells inside which make up that succulent red flesh will be packed full of moisture. A heavy melon is a juicy melon.
Light melons tend to have pale flesh that is lacking in color, flavor, and juice. In fact, they tend to be pretty powdery and granular.
4. Watermelon Sound
Do you love your melon? It’s time to get a little more physical. Give it a tap… Not too hard, obviously, we only want to pay for one melon, not two!
When you tap the melon, pay particular attention to the sound. You ideally want to hear a hollow-sounding knock… similar to a drum or knock on the door. This is a great indication of ripeness.
Anything that sounds dull, muted, or dense indicates that the melon isn’t ripe. And as we said before, it isn’t going to get any better as it has been picked!
Obviously, this is a little subjective, so compare the melon you pick to the others around it to see which has the most hollow sound.
5. Watermelon Feel
How does your watermelon feel?
No, not in that way. Watermelons don’t have emotions! We are talking about how it feels in your hand. Give your melon a gentle squeeze. The best, juiciest watermelons will have little to no give at all. Unlike other fruits such as avocados or mangos, you really want your watermelon to feel firm.
The rind is what determines how firm your watermelon is. Thicker rind generally means a better quality melon. If there is any give or softness, put it straight back as it is more than likely overripe or bad.
6. Stem Research
You might have never noticed this before, but most watermelons have a tiny little stem located at one of the ends. It looks a little like a tiny ‘outey’ tummy button. This can give you a great clue as to how the melon was treated before it made its way to the store.
Just like a tummy button, this is where the watermelon was attached to the chord…erm. Sorry, vine, before it was harvested.
Growers often cut their watermelons too early to satisfy an increased demand. This means underripe and flavorless watermelons. You’ll be able to tell when this has happened as the stem will be green and prominent.
Conversely, when the melon has been ripened to perfection, the stem or navel will be dried and a light brown color. If it is shriveled, even better.
7. The Watermelon Scratch Test
The final test to perform is to give your melon a little scratch with your fingernail. We’ve offered this as the last test in how to pick a watermelon as it simply won’t do for you to be going around your local store scratching every melon!
As we said above, a thick rind (a posh name for the melon’s skin) is a great sign of a tasty melon. The thicker and more developed the rind, the harder it will be to scratch. If you absolutely can’t make a mark with your fingernail, combined with all of the other factors above, you’ve found a really great melon!
How to Pick a Watermelon At a Glance Guide
We get it. You are busy! Here is a quick watermelon checklist to quickly run through when you are picking: –
- Uniform in shape, size, and appearance
- A large yellow spot on one side
- Feels heavy in the hand
- Has a hollow sound
- Is very firm or hard to touch
- Has a withered brown stem
- Rind can’t be scratched with a fingernail
Signs of a Bad Watermelon
Nobody likes a bad apple… or watermelon. Here is a quick checklist for things that could indicate a substandard watermelon: –
- Misshapen or a different color than the other melons in the pile
- A lack of a spot or a white spot
- Feels lightweight
- Sounds dull and solid when knocked
- Has soft sections or bruising on the surface
- Has a hard green stem sticking out of the end
- The rind is soft and easily scratched
How to Store Fresh Watermelon
So you’ve followed our advice on how to pick a watermelon and have landed yourself a real juicy number. Unless you want to eat a whole melon in one day, you will need to store it. Here are a few tips.
Don’t cut your melon until you are ready to eat it. Remember, melons don’t ripen, so if it was good at the store, it would still be good a little later.
Once cut, store your melon covered in food wrap in the fridge to prevent the cut side from drying out.
You can freeze melon for a later date. Remove the rind, cut into chunks and freeze in freezer bags.
If you’ve got a melon that’s about to go bad, why not cut it into popsicle shapes and skewer each wedge with a stick. They make for a really refreshing treat in the summer.
Provided you stick to our advice, knowing how to pick a watermelon should be a real breeze. We’ve even given you a handy checklist so you can check your watermelons when you are in a rush. What’s your favorite way to serve watermelon? Let us know in the comments.