It’s summer, so you probably want to take advantage of having access to fresh watermelon now that it’s in season. But how can you tell which melon is the ripest and sweetest, and which ones you should leave in the grocery store? Here are three steps to picking the perfect watermelon, courtesy of Texas A&M Agrilife.
This year’s crop
If you’ve tried some watermelon already and have noticed that it’s especially sweet, you’re not wrong. According to Juan Anciso, a professor with the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, this year’s watermelon crop—particularly those grown in the Rio Grande Valley—are above average when it comes to sweetness. There’s actually a special scale determining how sweet fruits are, called the Brix count. For watermelons, a score of 10 means the watermelon is of average sweetness, while an 11 indicates that it’s “very sweet.” This year’s crop is between an 11 and a 13.
But even though watermelons are off-the-charts sweet this summer, that doesn’t mean you can just grab any one in the produce section. Here are three things to do to pick the best watermelon.
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1. Find the yellow belly
Since you can’t really cut a watermelon open in the store or farmer’s market to see what it looks like inside, the next best way to check for ripeness is by looking for the field spot. This marking shows where the melon was positioned on the ground while attached to the vine. Here’s exactly what Texas A&M says to look for:
If the watermelon is ripe, the field spot should be a large, yellow patch on one side of the melon. If it is ripe, the color should be a creamy, almost a butter-like yellow. The bigger the yellow belly and the creamier the color means the more time the melon spent ripening on the vine. However, if the spot is smaller or looks more white than yellow, then the melon may not be as ripe.
2. Tap the underbelly
If you’ve ever seen people thumping or tapping a melon, they’re probably trying to find a ripe one (or just have a very strange hobby). To use this technique, lightly knock on the melon’s underbelly. If the watermelon is ripe, it’ll have a deeper sound. If it’s over-ripe, it’ll have a hollow or flat sound, which can indicate that the flesh is starting to become soft and spoil.
3. Don’t pick the prettiest one
When it comes to watermelons, you’re going to want to find ones that are dull and heavy—not the most photogenic. If a watermelon is shiny on the outside, that means that it’s not ripe. And if it’s heavier than the rest of the melons available, that’s a good sign. Because watermelons are 92% water, a heavier melon likely holds more water, which will make it juicier.