Watermelon

How to Pick a Watermelon That's Juuust Ripe

Keep these tricks and tips in mind during your next trip to the market.

September  3, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Whether you're munching on triangle-shaped slices straight from the fridge (or cooler) or blending up chunks for a refreshing slushy cocktail, watermelon is a summer classic.

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).


How to Pick a Watermelon

1. First things first: Pick it up. Even though watermelons vary in size, it should feel heavy whether it's large or small.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“As you learn how to properly select a watermelon, experience based on factual advice, thumping eventually gives you a feel and sound that results in a delicious and juicy melon. I have hefted and thumped so many watermelons that, combined with visual inspection and experience, I'm very accurate at picking the right one. It also helps I was born in Florida where we learned to pick ripe and wildly growing watermelons growing along the side of highways.”
— William C.
Comment

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.


Summer-Ready Watermelon Recipes

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.

Watermelonade

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.


What's your favorite way to enjoy watermelon during the summer? Tell us in the comments!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • William Collins
    William Collins
  • Emma
    Emma
  • gandalf
    gandalf
  • fearlessem
    fearlessem
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
Comment
Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.

5 Comments

William C. July 18, 2020
While thumping a watermelon is subjective, it is useful. It's a personal test based on one's selection of the watermelon based on vision and heft plus experience. As you learn how to properly select a watermelon, experience based on factual advice, thumping eventually gives you a feel and sound that results in a delicious and juicy melon. I have hefted and thumped so many watermelons that, combined with visual inspection and experience, I'm very accurate at picking the right one. It also helps I was born in Florida where we learned to pick ripe and wildly growing watermelons growing along the side of highways.
 
Emma July 15, 2020
"You'll want to steer clear of watermelon's with a patch (also known as a field or ground spot) that's white or non-existent."
Watermelon's?
 
Rosalind P. July 17, 2020
Come on....it's a typo. This site is exceptionally well written and edited.
 
gandalf July 14, 2020
"If I have doubts about ripeness, I thump the melon with my knuckles and listen for the sound. According to Mark Twain who observed the rites of thumping, a ripe watermelon says 'punk,' a green one says 'pink' or 'pank.' " -- from "WATERMELON FROM SEED" by Georgia Orcutt, New York Times, May 8, 1983.
 
fearlessem July 14, 2020
oooh, I knew about the yellow spot piece, but not about the glossy or crackly piece. Thanks for these tips!