Selecting Your Watermelon – A Decision Not To Be Taken Lightly

     It’s official. Watermelon season is here. Not that you can’t get a melon the rest of the year – you can, but to me it has always been a summer treat.

Time For Some Adventure

     The easiest way for me to get my watermelon fix is to buy one at the grocers. They come all cut up in plastic containers, and you can actually see the edible product. It’s expensive, but basically foolproof. But, come on. Where’s the fun in that?

     To me the whole scene is more than just eating. I want the whole experience. The whole enchilada, so to speak, and that includes going to the farmers’ market and selecting my melon. I have to admit, I have not done well in the past. There have been too many times I’ve experienced the heartbreak of seeing a melon I had such high hopes for ending up being a total disappointment. In previous years my batting average has been about 50%, which is pretty good if you’re playing for the Cubbies, but I think I can do much better.

Selecting Your Watermelon (Not For The Faint Of Heart)

     I’ve made a study of melon selection, and I can’t wait to try my new-found knowledge. I’ve broken it down in certain criteria to help me in making my decision:

  • Seeds or no seeds? Many aficionados think the melons with seeds are sweeter, and, of course, you need seeds to spit. This talent needs to be taught to each generation so it can be passed down over time.
  • Pick it up. It should feel heavy for its size; after all, it’s 92% water.
  • Check it over. It shouldn’t be too large or too small. It should be green and appear dull on the outside. A shiny melon is a clue that it’s not yet ripe. It should be firm and symmetrical in shape. Some minor scratches are okay, but avoid the ones that have major bruises or scars. The web-like brown spots mean that there has been bee involvement regarding pollination, and that also makes for a sweeter melon. Web-like is good.
  • There are gender differences. The “boy” melons aren’t as round (more cylindrical) and have a watery taste.  The “girl” melons have a round shape and are considered to be sweeter (go figure), so there’s evidently some type of hanky-panky going on in the patch that I won’t speculate on.
  • If you are a “thumper,” give it a good thump. It should sound hollow and not dull or deep. One article said a ripe watermelon should produce a B-flat sound. Really. Most say the “thumper test” is not very reliable because it is too subjective. I personally think it is good theater. I plan to put my ear close to the melon, give it a good rap, and then nod my head and say, “This is the one. A perfect B-flat.”
  • Trying not to make eye contact with the watermelon, check its tail. If it’s green, it was probably picked before its prime and will not be ripe enough. A dried tail indicates the melon is ripe.
  • There seemed to be consensus in that the best indicator for ripeness is the garden spot (the place on the melon where it had been making contact with the soil). Some call this the “splotch” which coincidentally is the sound it makes when striking the pavement after being thrown off a 3-story building. The splotch should be yellow. If it’s white or greenish, it’s not ripe yet. It was probably picked too soon. 

You’re Almost There

     Your work is now half-done. Gingerly carry it home and cut it up. Now don’t get all anal and think the cut-up pieces have to be a uniform size. The don’t. There is a great site called KITCHN 100 that tells you how to do this ( Never expose the cut melon to refrigerator temperatures below 40-degrees F, as this could damage the fruit. A whole, uncut watermelon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week before it needs to be used.

     And there you have it. No by guess or by golly. You are now a knowledgeable watermelon shopper and in for a heavenly treat. Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.” Bon Appetit.