It's watermelon season!! Meaning it's time for the best thing ever, sweet delicious watermelon. Ever been in a grocery store, staring at a tub of watermelons but unsure how to decide on the best one? Yup, me too. As a watermelon lover, I wanted to share the best way to pick a very sweet watermelon, that will be a crowd pleaser. This post will go over 5 ways to ensure you pick a good watermelon (hopefully a perfect melon, even).
A little watermelon history:
Watermelon has a long and curious history, with the first recorded watermelon being harvested in Egypt 5000 years ago. Watermelon was once thrown at speakers in ancient Greece, including Greek orator Demosthenes during a speech. He then placed the watermelon on his head and thanked the thrower for providing him a helmet. That's how to make the best of a bad situation! Watermelons are completely edible and the first cookbook ever published in the United States included a recipe for pickled watermelon rinds. Another way to use the rind - as a container. Early explorers used watermelons as canteens. (Source)
Watermelon Facts and Types of watermelon:
Watermelon is 92 percent water and since it is completely edible (70% flesh and 30% rind), watermelon is the most cost effective fruit at 17 cents per serving. There are a couple types of watermelon to choose from. Mini watermelon, seeded watermelon, and seedless watermelon. Mini watermelons can be seeded or seedless and the methods listed below for picking the sweetest one will be the same as for a full size watermelon. Seedless watermelons have white seeds that are actually empty seed coatings that have not matured. Seedless and seeded watermelons are otherwise identical. Due to higher demand, 90% of the domestic crops in the world produce seedless watermelons.
How to pick a watermelon:
When searching for the perfect watermelon, we are trying to get the sweetest, juiciest bite. There is nothing better on a hot summer day than fresh watermelon. And, there is nothing worse than cutting into a bland or over ripe watermelon. Things that contribute to a sweet, ripe watermelon are the time it spent in the field, the percentage of water within the flesh, and how the plant was initially pollinated. This should go without saying, but while watermelons can be available all year round, try to buy when they are in season (summer months) for the best luck. Some other ways to determine the best melon while you are grocery shopping are:
- Look for field spot and webbing
- Knocking on the watermelon
- Look for an even shaped, heavy watermelon
- Checking the stem color
- Looking for one dull in color
Field Spot and Webbing
A ripe watermelon should have a yellow field spot (also known as a ground spot) on the underside of the melon and webbing. The yellow patch is where the watermelon sat on the ground. If the watermelon was left to ripen properly, it will have a creamy yellow spot. This spot is known at the yellow belly .If the melon has white spots, this indicates it was picked too soon. Watermelon does not continue to ripen after being picked so it is important to pick one that was picked when ripe. Webbing is another sign of a ripe melon. While webbing is not as accepted, the webbing is where the bees initially pollinated the flower. The webbing or sugar spot is where sugar has been seeping out and pooling. The watermelon on the left is an example of webbing, while the one on the right is an example of a yellow field spot with webbing (spoiler, this is the watermelon I bought).
This is the method I rely on. This is not a widely accepted method, however watermelon enthusiasts believe it to be a good sign of a sweet melon and did research to determine the pitch of the perfect watermelon. This method involves tapping or knocking the watermelons and listening for a deep sound or a dull sound that corresponds to water content. An easy distinction is an under ripe watermelon will sound like a “ping” and a ripe watermelon will sound like a “pong”. The "pong" sound means the melon likely holds more water. An over ripe melon will have a hollow sound or a flat sound.
The Shape and Weight
Look for a watermelon with an even or uniform shape. This could be round, oval, or elongated, but avoid ones with bumps, scratches, soft spots, or pits. These defects indicate an uneven distribution of nutrients and water and infection from a bug or other means. Typically, I go for round watermelons because I seem to have the best luck with them being the best tasting watermelons. Also, lift the watermelons in question. A ripe and juicy watermelon should be heavy for its size, meaning a higher water ratio. The watermelon on the left is more oblong while the watermelon on the right is more round in shape.
Look for a stem end or point where the stem was that is brown with a small dent. This indicates that the watermelon ripened on its own and fell off the vine. An under ripe watermelon will have a green stem or green spot where the watermelon was cut off. If the watermelon has the stem still on it, it should have a dried tail or stem. Both watermelons below have brown stem spots, just different in size. In cases like this, I use the stem spot as one of a couple ways to pick the best watermelon.
The outside of the watermelon should be dull and darker in color meaning it has been left in the field longer to ripen. Just be careful to not pick an over ripe watermelon. A shiny melon indicates an under ripe watermelon. The watermelon below is dull but is not dark in color, so probably not the ripest, but would still be a good, sweet option.
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