How to pick a good watermelon

How To Pick A Good Watermelon - Everything You Need to Know

Summer is here; nothing tastes better on a hot summer day than a chilled slice of watermelon. However, not all watermelons are created equal; we’ve all experienced that floury taste and lack of sweetness. Picking the perfect melon is something of an art form, and every thud against the skin, every spot and stripe on the rind bears the secrets of what's hidden within.

Here's our ultimate guide on how to pick out perfect, juicy, and sweet watermelons for summertime, so read along! And for more inspiration for the season, check out our summer quotes and tips for an eco-friendly summer.

Visual and External Signs of a Perfectly Ripe Watermelon

Watermelon with a heart by the pool
Photo by Kenta Kikuchi on Unsplash.

Look for a dull exterior

When selecting a sweet watermelon, the outside texture provides valuable clues about its ripeness and flavor. To pick out a perfectly ripe watermelon, choose one with a dull exterior instead of the shiny one. The dull appearance indicates that the melon has been on the vine long enough to mature fully and, therefore, more likely to be very sweet.

Also, don’t be fooled by deep yellow colorings or green stripes – these may just mean the watermelon spent days in sunlight without maturing. Instead, look for dark yellow patterns or a creamy yellow spot that indicates peak watermelon season harvesting for maximum ripeness and flavor.

Check for a uniform shape

uncut watermelons
Photo by Olga Finn on Unsplash.

When selecting a good watermelon, it is important to consider the shape of the fruit and ensure that it is uniform. A more symmetrical or round shape indicates that the watermelon has grown naturally with balanced levels of sun exposure, nutrients, and hydration.

Generally speaking, any irregular bumps or ridges on a watermelon's exterior may indicate the excessive use of synthetic growth accelerants during its growth. These chemicals can affect the fruit's quality and significantly impact natural resources like soil fertility and freshwater supplies.

That's why selecting watermelons with even shapes can help you make more sustainable choices when buying produce at your local grocery store or farmers' market. 

When picking melons, carefully inspect each one to guarantee they are evenly shaped all around. Oblong-shaped fruits may have been forced to grow rapidly without a proper maturation process.

Find the field spot (deep yellow color)

Watermelons with field spots
Watermelons with field spots. Photo by Andrew Hutchings on Unsplash.

Finding its field spot is one of the most important steps to picking a good watermelon. This is where the watermelon rested on the field (ground spot) while growing. This deep yellow mark on an uncut watermelon's surface indicates it has enough sugar content and is ripe and sweet.

If you come across a watermelon with no visible field spot or one that's still pale green in color, it means the melon isn't quite mature yet and may lack sweetness when cut open.

So be sure to find yourself one with a fully developed field spot – usually signified by an orange-yellow color or even creamy yellow – which you'll easily notice at the farmer's market or grocery store.

Inspect the stem (brown and dried)

When searching through the stacks of watermelons, many people look for a smooth and symmetrical exterior. But we should also pay close attention to the stem, as this is one of the most important indicators that your melon will be ripe and sweet.

A dried stem on a watermelon often indicates that it matured on the vine fully and was picked at the right time, whereas a green stem suggests an underripe fruit.

This can help you ascertain its freshness and ensure that you have found a sweet melon, just as you were looking for.

Knock on the watermelon

Knocking on a watermelon is one of the most reliable ways to test for ripeness and find a sweet watermelon. Before you pick a watermelon, give each potential candidate a few gentle taps with your knuckles.

You are looking for a deep, hollow sound instead of a light sound because this indicates that it’s nicely ripe. Lighter sounds mean it’s underripe, while an overly-loud thud means it’s overripe.

This method also helps determine how sweet the fruit may be as its flesh will be denser in richer flavors.

Check this super short and helpful youtube video for the sound you're looking for.

Physical Characteristics of a Good Watermelon

Person eating a watermelon slice
Photo by Filip Baotić on Unsplash.

Opt for a heavier watermelon for its size

When looking for a perfect watermelon, opting for the heaviest one your hand can carry is important. A healthy and juicy watermelon should always feel heavier than its size suggests.

Watermelons, like most fruits, are made up primarily of water. A ripe and fleshy watermelon will be dense with juice, making it feel heavy for its size. Selecting a heavy uncut watermelon means choosing a fruit with more flesh and moisture, optimizing the edible portions of the watermelon, hence reducing potential food waste.

Remember, the fruit's weight can indicate its ripeness. Mature fruits stay on the vine longer, becoming sweeter and heavier than their less ripe counterparts.

Look for sugar spots and pollination points

When choosing a good watermelon, there are several tips and tricks to remember. One of the most important is to look for sugar spots and pollination points. These tell-tale signs can help you determine the ripeness and sweetness of a melon before you cut it open.

These spots appear as small yellow dots or smudges on the exterior rind of a melon. Pollination points are distinctive brown marks where bees had landed while they spread pollen between flowers during the growing process.

Both indicators show that when ripe, a watermelon will have more natural sugars present, making it sweeter and juicier than an underripe one with fewer sugars. So when shopping for your next sweet treat, check out each melon carefully and look for those allusive spots or pollination points.

Similarly, avoid buying a watermelon with bruises, cuts, or soft spots, which may indicate internal bruising, most likely due to damage in transit. 

Health Benefits of Choosing the Perfect Watermelon

You enjoy its many health benefits when you learn how to pick a good watermelon. It helps with hydration, lowers blood pressure, and improves circulation, enhancing your overall well-being.

Learn more about the fantastic health advantages of selecting the best watermelon.

Keeps you hydrated

Choosing the juiciest watermelon can help to keep you hydrated due to its high water content. Water is essential for us, as it helps vital organs such as your heart, lungs, and brain function optimally.

Studies have found that watermelon mainly comprises the good stuff; about 90 percent of its weight is H2O. Staying adequately hydrated can also improve cognition, enhance physical performance, and reduce fatigue - all helpful benefits for any sustainable lifestyle.

Buying watermelons is an excellent addition to your diet for optimal hydration. They're high in water content and rich in vitamins B and C and lycopene3, all with health-boosting antioxidant properties.

Helps lower blood pressure and improves circulation

Choosing a ripe melon is an effective way to improve your vascular health. The best watermelons are loaded with nutrients ideal for those at risk of poor cardiovascular health1. This includes individuals under heart stress or those with high blood pressure.

Eating watermelon is good for your heart. It has an ingredient called L-citrulline, which our body changes into another ingredient, L-arginine. This helps our blood vessels work better. 

This could benefit cardiovascular health by reducing arterial stiffness and lowering blood pressure.

It may reduce muscle soreness

At its core, muscle soreness usually results from lingering inflammation in response to recent physical activity. So by incorporating more anti-inflammatory ingredients into your diet, you can naturally reduce arthritis and swelling contributing to painful muscles.

In this sense, your extra-sweet watermelon offers great potential for reducing sore muscles due to its impressive levels of l-Citrulline2.

Eating a sweet melon delivers essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to your body. These nutrients help combat free radicals and promote cellular recovery after strenuous activities or workouts.

And they are versatile and taste great!

Healthy watermelon salad
Photo by Sunny Nguyen on Unsplash.

Watermelons aren't just a symbol of summer; they are a delectably juicy part of our culinary world, and their uses are more extensive than one might imagine.

But besides enjoying them in their most natural form, watermelons are a versatile ingredient to sweeten your culinary repertoire. Cut watermelon can be transformed into refreshing salads, creatively combined with feta, mint, or olives for a burst of unexpected flavors. They can be pureed into sorbets or smoothies, providing both hydration and a sweet kick on a warm day. 

Depending on your culinary adventurousness, the rind of watermelons can even be pickled for a sweet-and-tangy, crunchy treat – paving the way towards zero waste

Bakers can incorporate watermelon into cakes, adding a summery twist. Mixologists have long recognized watermelon's potential, too, utilizing its juice for an array of creative cocktails. Browse online for other inspiring ways to use watermelons and delicious recipes. 

Conclusion

When picking the perfect watermelon, assess all these factors for the perfect summer melon. Start by paying attention to visual and external signs, like looking for a dull exterior and year-round uniform shape or finding the field spot and an inspection of the stem.

You’ll also benefit from knocking on the melon as an auditory test for ripeness too. During this time, look for physical characteristics such as a heavier fruit with sugar spots and pollination points while avoiding shiny and underripe melons.

Lastly, choose a rounder, distinctly shaped watermelon, which will likely contain more liquid content resulting in juicier fruits. Checking all these off bodes well and indicates that it's good to go!

Picking the Perfect Watermelon FAQS

1. When buying, what should I look for in a ripe watermelon?

When choosing a ripe watermelon, search for one that has a uniform shape, feels heavy for its size (indicating a plentiful supply of juice and flesh), exhibits a creamy yellow spot where it laid on the ground (known as the 'field spot'), and has a dry stem, which suggests it was allowed to mature on the vine before being picked.

2. Does every watermelon taste the same?

Not at all! The flavor experience of watermelon can fluctuate based on its type, ripeness stage, and specific growing conditions. That said, a ripe watermelon typically delivers a uniquely sweet, mildly tangy flavor profile that is delightfully juicy.

3. Is it possible to eat the entirety of a watermelon?

Most folks just savor just the watermelon's sweet, juicy inner flesh. However, consuming all parts of the fruit is possible and sometimes recommended. You can even eat the watermelon rind, experimenting with it in pickling, candy-making, or stir-frying recipes.

4. How can I minimize wastage while enjoying watermelons?

Choosing a heavier watermelon is a good start, as this fruit offers more edible flesh and juice. Furthermore, engaging creatively with parts of the fruit usually overlooked - like cooking with the rind by pickling it, for example - enables us to honor the fruit in its entirety.

5. Can I incorporate watermelons into savory meal preparations?

Absolutely! The watermelon exhibits a versatile flavor personality that matches harmoniously with a variety of savory ingredients. Think salty feta cheese or a tart balsamic glaze - these pairings work fantastically in the realm of salads, side dishes, or even unique pizza toppings!

6. Do watermelons ripen after picking from the vine?

Contrary to some fruits that continue maturing after picking, watermelons do not. This characteristic underlines the importance of selecting a mature watermelon at the time of purchase, recognizable by signs like its dry stem and the presence of a creamy yellow field spot.

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1

Volino-Souza, M., Oliveira, G. V., Conte-Junior, C. A., Figueroa, A., & Alvares, T. S. (2022). Current Evidence of Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) Ingestion on Vascular Health: A Food Science and Technology Perspective. Nutrients, 14(14), 2913.

2

Tarazona-Díaz, M. P., Alacid, F., Carrasco, M., Martínez, I., & Aguayo, E. (2013). Watermelon juice: potential functional drink for sore muscle relief in athletes. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 61(31), 7522–7528.

3

Naz, A., Butt, M. S., Sultan, M. T., Qayyum, M. M., & Niaz, R. S. (2014). Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims. EXCLI journal, 13, 650–660.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Floh Keitgen on Unsplash
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