Melons—watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew—are great summertime treats and especially appreciated on the hottest of days. Eating melons is a great way to hydrate the body. They are nutritious, naturally low in calories, and sweet enough to enjoy freshly sliced. But how do you know if it’s ripe? And should you store it on the counter or in the fridge? Picking ripe melons and knowing how to store them doesn’t have to be a mystery. Just follow these tips:
Selecting: It is hard to tell if a watermelon is ripe at first glance, but here are a couple of things to look for:
- Many people use the stem as a marker, saying that a brown shriveled stem is a sign of ripeness. However, this may not be true and may have been confused with a marker that growers use when selecting ripe fruit from the field. The melons have tendrils on their stems, and when these tendrils turn brown and shrivel, it’s time to harvest.
- Next, look at the underside of the watermelon for the “field spot”—the portion that lays on the ground in the field. This should be light yellow in color. If it is white, the watermelon was probably picked too early.
- Give it a tap or a knock. A ripe watermelon should sound deep, full, and hollow, ready to burst forth all that yummy watermelon juice!
- Don’t forget to check the blossom end (the opposite end from the stem). Give it a little press to see if it has any “give.” If the watermelon is ripe, there will be some give.
- The watermelon should feel heavy for its size.
Storing: Whole watermelons can be kept in the kitchen at room temperature until cut. When cutting a portion of a whole watermelon at a time, wrap the open end with storage wrap and stand upright in the refrigerator. Sliced watermelon can be served fresh sliced or chilled first. Store sliced or balled watermelon in a sealable container in the refrigerator.
Are there “male” and “female” watermelons? All watermelons come from female flowers, which have a small swelling at the base of the flower. There are no male watermelons. The shape of the watermelon is determined by the variety of watermelon. A round watermelon is not necessarily a good watermelon nor does it determine sweetness.
Selecting: Should be firm, but not too hard and unbruised. Don’t select a hard green cantaloupe as it was picked too soon. Give it the whiff test. A ripe cantaloupe will have a nice fragrance.
Storing: Ripe cantaloupes should be stored in the refrigerator. If a cantaloupe has no fragrance and is still quite firm, leave on the kitchen counter for a day or two to ripen. Once the cantaloupe is ripe, slice open down the center. Scoop out the seeds with a large spoon and discard. Slice each half into sections, cutting away the rind. Store cubes or slices of cantaloupe in sealed containers in the refrigerator to keep fresh.
Selecting: A ripe honeydew melon will have a pleasant fragrance at the blossom end. A ripe honeydew will feel heavy for its size and be the color of butter.
Storing: Honeydew melons should be refrigerated. Once the melon has been sliced or cut into chunks, it should be kept in a sealable container in the refrigerator to keep it from drying out.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.