How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon

It’s melon season in the Midwest! While staring at a huge pile of watermelons, is there a way to tell which ones are sweetest and ripened to perfection, and which ones may leave you feeling disappointed?

Yes, there is! In fact, there are a number of signs you can look for to spot the perfect melon. First of all, do your hunting at the farmers market, not at the conventional grocery store. I like to look the person who grew my food in the eye. If you take time to ask, they are more than happy give you first-hand knowledge about produce.

Farmers work hard and they are (rightly so) proud to bring you the best, freshest food available for your dinner table. So, take the time to thank them and get to know them.

This post is sponsored by Garden Spot Vegetable Farm. Located in Princeville, Illinois, owner, Jim Buckley and his family, cultivate 34 acres of vegetables and 375 fruit trees. Garden Spot is a no-spray farm, offering a variety of CSA packages. Check their Facebook page for current programs and options for available produce.

1.  Look for the yellow spot on the bottom. 

This is called the field spot and it should look “creamy”, like butter, not bright white. It’s a sign that it is field ripened, rather than picked too early or shipped in from a long distance and not allowed to ripen fully.

If you buy off-season, often there is no visible yellow spot on any of the melons. This means that it was picked early from the field and shipped hundreds of miles, allowing it to finish the maturation process without being connect to the vine or the earth. For this reason, winter melons are often disappointing in both flavor and texture.

2. Even, dull coloration. 

Unlike your new car, you don’t want a shiny melon. It’s a sign that it’s underripe. A melon that is slightly dull should be perfection. Additionally, the skin should not contain any splotches of unusual color or areas of discoloration or pitting.

3.  It sounds “hollow” when you thump it. 

Whenever you visit a farm stand, you see people flicking melons with their index finger. There is actually a really good reason that they are doing this.

A soft “plink” when you strike it with your index finger is a sign that it has not been allowed to become overly ripe. When the interior is too ripe, the flesh becomes more compact, resulting in a “dull thud” when strummed with your forefinger.

4. Sugar spots

A farmer friend told me to look for these years ago. They appear as black lines on the bottom of melons and are a sign that the plant was pollinated properly by lots of happy bees. A melon with black lines or even lines which appear to be weeping, are the sweetest specimens. 

5. Should feel heavy. 

The biggest is not always the best. Look for a symmetrical melon. Round melons tend to be slightly sweeter than oblong melons. Misshapen melons haven’t ripened evenly. Also, pithy produce loses its firmness. As the melon begins to rot, it will lose weight, and feel lighter than others of comparable size.


Yes, there are other things you can do with watermelon, other than eating it by the slice (although that is a perfectly reasonable reaction to fresh melon.) Recipes range from soups, salads, desserts, and drinks can all be made, featuring watermelon as the star of the show.

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