Picking out just the right watermelon can be tricky since there aren't many external signifiers, and you can't just give it a squeeze to see if it's softened, like you would with other fruits. There are, however, a few things you can look out for and do to ensure you've got a melon that's ready to eat.
Here's how to pick out a watermelon, plus a few ideas for what to do with it at home this summer (oh hi, watermelon Campari granita).
1. First things first: Pick it up. Even though watermelons vary in size, it should feel heavy whether it's large or small.
2. You've probably heard that you can give watermelon a tap or a knock and, if the melon sounds hollow, then you've got a winner. This isn't a foolproof method because it's pretty unreliable and more or less subjective. "While plenty of people swear by a quick knuckle-rap on a melon's surface," writes Nozlee Samadzadeh in our guide to all sorts of melons, "the best way to tell is by turning the melon over."
"If the yellow-brown patch where the melon lay on the soil is pronounced, large, and dirty, it's a good sign that it has been growing for a while," she explains. You'll want to steer clear of watermelons with a patch (also known as a field or ground spot) that's white or nonexistent.
3. Another handy tip for picking watermelons: The prettiest watermelon probably isn't the sweetest. According to Maki Yazawa for Real Simple, the more matte or dull-looking the watermelon, the better. "If the melon is very shiny, it is likely underripe," she says.
4. Spots can also be a good sign. "Dry weathering spots and vein-like webbing lines are great indicators of an extra sweet watermelon," she explains. "These spots show where sugar has been seeping out of the fruit" and onto the rind.
Jalapeño Chicken Tacos With Watermelon Salsa
Meet the taco recipe that made our Table for One columnist, Eric Kim, stop hating tacos (finally). The chicken is tender and spicy, thanks to a garlicky, herby jalapeño marinade; the flour tortillas are warm and soft; and the zippy watermelon salsa makes the perfect finishing touch.
Keep a batch of this ultra-refreshing watermelonade in your fridge all summer long. Putting it together is easy as can be: Just make a quick simple syrup, blend and strain some ripe watermelon, and combine it all with freshly squeezed lemon juice. A slice of lemon or bright mint sprig would make a nice garnish, too.
Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad with a Verbena-Infused Vinaigrette
We couldn't not include the winner—a cooling watermelon salad with crunchy pistachios and tangy goat cheese—for the Your Best Watermelon Recipe contest, now could we?
Olia Hercules' Watermelon Rind Jam
Don't toss the watermelon rind! Turn it into this Genius-approved jam that has "more depth and personality than you ever thought watermelon could," says cookbook author Olia Hercules.
Louisa Shafia's Watermelon, Mint & Cider Vinegar Tonic
This sweet-and-sour tonic gets its bright, summery flavor by infusing watermelon cubes and mint in the warm mixture before letting it cool in the fridge. It'll last for about a week, but we bet it'll go much more quickly than that.
Watermelon Campari Granita
A dash of Campari, a bitter Italian liqueur, brings out an alluring complexity in the watermelon that might otherwise be missed if you just used fresh citrus.