Here's How to Pick a Perfectly Ripe Watermelon Every Time

Never grab a mealy, tasteless melon again.

a bunch of watermelons with a few cut up
Photo: Adam Albright/Dotdash Meredith

Biting into a slice of perfectly ripe watermelon is one of the pure joys of summer in the South. At its best, watermelon sports a delightful sweetness that is balanced with subtle sour and bitter notes. It is simultaneously juicy and crisp, and best of all, it's refreshing (thanks to its 92 percent water content) when temperatures climb. At its worst, watermelon can be tasteless, mealy, and a letdown when you're anticipating a sweet, bright triangle (or collection of cubes) on your potluck plate.

Watermelon is delicious sprinkled with salt, blended into a frozen watermelon daiquiri, thrown on the grill, and as an ingredient in salads, ice cream, gazpacho, and more.

But if you've ever fretted over which watermelon to take home from the produce aisle or farmers' market, you're not alone. Watermelon's thick rind and sheer size can make it tricky to judge, but these pro tips will help you pick the perfect watermelon every time.

How to Pick a Good Watermelon

1. Buy at its peak

For the freshest watermelon, get a leg up by shopping in season, which is May through September in the U.S. The top watermelon-producing states are Florida, California, Texas, and Georgia.

2. Look for a butter, pale yellow spot

This marking is also called the "field spot" and denotes where the watermelon rested as it grew. If the spot is white, the watermelon is underripe. If it's dark yellow, it may be overripe.

3. Look for uniformity

Whether you're picking a round or oval watermelon, you want it to be symmetrical and free of large gashes, bruises, and soft spots, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

4. Examine rind texture

Opt for a watermelon that is dark in color and dull in luster. A shiny texture indicates the melon is not yet ripe.

5. Find the brown stem

A brown stem (versus a green one) is a sign that a watermelon ripened on the vine. According to the South Carolina Watermelon Association, watermelons stop ripening when they are picked, so grabbing one with a green stem doesn't mean it will eventually ripen.

6. Search for sugar spots

Also known as "webbing," these tiny dotted lines on a watermelon's exterior occur during pollination and are a sign that the watermelon is sweet.

7. Pick it up

Because of its high water content, a ripe, juicy watermelon should feel heavy for its size. This might mean you need to pick up a few to gauge their heft.

8. Try the thump test

"To see if a watermelon is ripe, when you tap lightly, you should hear a thump instead of a ping," says Kelly Smith Trimble, Knoxville-based master gardener and author of Vegetable Gardening Wisdom and the forthcoming The Creative Vegetable Gardener. "Test a few to get an ear for the difference."

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