What You Need to Know to Pick the Best Melon at the Market

published Aug 4, 2017
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Unlike stone fruits and berries, which greet you with their sweet fragrance and have easy-to-examine flesh, buying a watermelon can feel like a leap of faith when you don’t know what to look for. Instead of just picking up the melon at the top of the pile, here are five things to check for to ensure you bring home a juicy, flavorful watermelon.

1. Go for the mini melon.

In addition to those massive 20-pounders and the wedges cut and nicely wrapped by your grocery store staff, you can now find mini watermelons in the produce section. These smaller melons can prove a better choice than their larger counterparts. Clocking in at about five pounds, mini melons are easy to handle (especially if you’re a city dweller who carries her groceries home) and last longer than one of those large watermelon wedges. And if you need another reason to keep it on the small side, mini watermelons are often seedless.

2. Lift it for weight.

No matter what size melon you’re buying, or whether it’s a whole melon or pre-cut wedge, pick it up to see how heavy it feels. Good melons should feel heavy for their size. If the watermelon seems lighter than you’d expect, it’s best to take a pass on that one and move on to another.

3. Feel for firmness.

When you pick up the melon to check the weight, also take a minute to feel the skin all around. Good melon will feel firm and should be free from soft spots, bruising, and cuts.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Look for the field spot.

Watermelons develop a pale-colored splotch, called a field spot, on the area where they rested on the ground during growing. Ripe watermelons have a creamy yellow, even pale orange spot. Skip over those with a white field spot, as they’re not quite ripe yet.

5. Check for a hollow sound.

This might sound a little silly, but trust me on this one — to pick a good melon, you also want to hear what it sounds like. Tap the melon with the palm of your hand. Ripe melons should have a deep hollow sound, while less desirable melons will sound dull and flat.

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