How To Tell If A Watermelon Is Ripe

Summer is the time for cookouts, picnics, and watermelon. If you’re like me, you can’t wait to break open the first watermelon of the season.

Sometimes your rush ends up in disappointment because the watermelon you’ve chosen just isn’t tasty, which means it just isn’t ripe.

Let’s discuss how to tell if a watermelon is ripe so when you crack it open, it tastes like summer.

watermelon1The trick to finding a ripe watermelon is to go beyond its appearance. Unlike some fruit, you can’t rely on your sense of sight to determine if you’re about to buy a nice, ripe, juicy watermelon. Take a banana, for instance. If the peel is yellow, chances are it’s ripe. With a watermelon you also have to call on your sense of sound and your sense of smell.

Watermelons, no matter what variety – small round or large football shaped – have a particular sound when you knock on them. A ripe watermelon will give you a “thud” sound when you knock on it with your knuckles. Hold the watermelon close to your ear by cradling it in one arm, then knock on it with your opposite hand; like you’re knocking on a door. You should hear a dull sound, not a high ringing sound. Do this to several watermelons until you get the sound that doesn’t resonate a lot; it sort of disappears into the watermelon. This may not make any sense until you actually thump a few!

The watermelon scent is very distinctive and is another clue to a ripe watermelon. Once you’ve chosen a watermelon with the right sound, you need to use your sense of smell to finalize the deal. Take your watermelon and walk away from the bin so your nose isn’t confused by too much watermelon scent. Get your nose close to the watermelon end and sniff. You should get a delicious watermelon scent.

If your nose is still confused by all the watermelon aromas, walk over to the coffee aisle and do the old wine tasting trick. Clear your nostrils with a whiff of coffee scent. Wait a minute, then sniff your watermelon.

Now that you know how to tell if a watermelon is ripe, dive right into that beautiful pile at your grocery store or farmers market. Bring home a ripe, juicy watermelon for your family today and enjoy the fruit that says “summer is here!”

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  1. Thank you for this article. Just the other day I bought a water melon and brought it home. I cut it up to put into single serve portions for hubby and me, but when I tasted it, it was actually almost bitter tasting. I was very disappointed because I’ve always known water melon to be sweet, but it was not the case with this one, and I ended up throwing most of it away. I dont normally buy water melon, so this is a great lesson for me. Thank you!

  2. Terri Billups says:

    I used to do a lot of “sniff” panels for my former employer and picked up this trick to “clear” your nose for aroma detection. Take a deep smell of your shirt. Since it has been with you all day, your nose registers it as a neutral scent.

  3. I ask my produce dept where I shop to cut my melon in half when I purchase a whole melon to make sure it is ripe, pink, and smells wonderful. They have always done this for me upon request with no extra charge. But of course if you are making a watermelon boat or a watermelon baby stroller from the melon this idea doesn’t work. Then I have just have to take my chances.

  4. The old timers used to tout thumping on a watermelon and then thumping on your forehead, chest, and abdomen, then matching the sound of one of them to the ripe watermelon. I’ll be danged if I can remember which is the “correct” one. Should have paid more attention to my grandfather! Can anyone help unravel this dilemna?

  5. There is an iPhone app to test watermelons:

  6. Back in my teens, when I was strong of back, my buddies and I would work the watermelon fields in Sandia, TX during the season when we needed “party money”. (Sandia = watermelon in Spanish) The old guys working there taught us to look at the bottom of the melons to check the color of the blanched spot (where it lies in contact with the ground). If it’s white, leave it be. If it’s yellow then worry about the thump test or whatever other test you think works.

  7. Becky B. says:

    For the past 15 years, I have flipped them over and looked for a yellow belly. No thumping, sniffing, weighiong. If the belly is yellow, they are ripe, sweet, and juicy! I don’t remember where I picked up this tip, but it hasn’t let me down yet.

  8. jd wolfe says:

    another thing to look for is that there should be no vine remaining on the watermelon. it should fall or break off naturally. if it was cut too soon, there will be a stuf, often several inches long. i look for a smooth ‘navel’ area.

    jd in st louis

  9. If you find your watermelon is not ripe, don’t throw it away. Return it to the store and they will replace it. The produce dept wants you to be satisfied. You are wasting your money and their good name if you are not happy with your product. Also, as someone else stated, just have them cut it for you.

  10. My mom taught me when we picked a melon from the garden to pay attention to the curlers on the vine nearest the melon. The curler at the stem and to the left and right of the stem should all be dried up and brown before you pick it. Of course, this advice is only for gardeners not shoppers, but I thought I’d pass it on.

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