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Old July 30, 2016   #1
Christa B.
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Default How to pick a ripe watermelon-Share your experience here

Picking a ripe watermelon from the garden can be tricky! I started this thread so we can all share our tips that we have learned from experience. To me, there isn't one absolute indicator of ripeness but several indicators that should all be taken into consideration with other factors collectively.

I will go first.

A dead tendril (the one closest to the watermelon) is one indicator of ripeness but not foolproof! I have picked watermelons with completely dried tendrils that were not ripe(specifically Moon and Stars, Yellow Moon And Stars) and watermelons with green tendrils that were ripe (specifically Klondike Blue Ribbon).

I have noticed that many of the oblong shaped watermelons get a lumpy appearance when they are getting close to being ripe.

Average days to maturity is also something I take into consideration. If I have a watermelon that has a dead tendril but it has only been 75 days since the plant went in the ground and the average DTM for that variety is 95 days, there is no way I am picking that melon. I realize average dtm is more of a guideline than an absolute but still should be considered when it comes to watermelons.

Please share your tips as well!
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Old July 30, 2016   #2
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I hitchhiked all over the country back in the seventy's when it was cause celeb,and safe then.In NC got picked up by a trucker and hauled melons to the NJ wharehouses that supplied the City(NYC).We would pull up to melon fields at night,the sorters would turn the melons "butter color side up"so as the pickers would cut the vine and single file load them stacked strategically(no shifting) in the trailer only about halfway up trailor sides.No cardbord pallets then.The sorter told me that if you tap the melon you can tell degree of ripeness by three noises.If you knock your forehead that noise is too hard,your belly too ripe,but your chest is the right amount of water and fairly ripe.Look for butter color bottoms and striations (mini puntures in line) that bees and other insects try to get in the melon when they smell the sweetness.Spent three weeks during that melon season with the trucker and made a ton of cash.Sorter did mention that full moons produce heavier melons since the trucker sold them per/pound at the super market loading dock scales.

Last edited by kurt; July 30, 2016 at 12:25 PM.
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Old July 30, 2016   #3
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Both of the earlier replies are accurate in determining ripeness. I like for there to be a dryspell 2-3 weeks before harvest as the level of sweetness will become more acute.

Last year I grew Crimson Sweet and Charleston Gray. One of the Chas. Gray produced a specimen that weighed over 40 lbs. and was sweet as candy. Of course I saved several hundred seeds and have more growing this year.

I plan to send some of these Charleston Gray seeds to the seed swap this Fall.
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Old July 31, 2016   #4
Dewayne mater
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Like Curt said, the sound will at least help you not get an over ripe one. Along with sound is a vibration. One hand flat on one side, the other slaps the opposite side. An over ripe melon sounds dull and no vibrations will be felt on the back side.

A farmer at our market says to look for teeth marks. Claims that coyotes have an excellent sense of smell and they will try to bite the sweetest smelling ones. Never heard that and it could just a spinning a yarn, but, the one time I bought such a melon from him it was amazing.

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Old September 27, 2016   #5
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I somehow managed to pick 30 melons out of my garden last year, only plucking one that was underripe.

With cantaloupe and such I wait until the vine itself starts slipping. Sometimes you can go by smell, but sometimes they aren't fully ripe. I waited until the vine told me by starting to detach.

Watermelon I do the thumping, I do the yellow underbelly, I do the dried tendril, and I do the fingernail test.

press your fingernail into the rind of the melon. If it easily pushes in, it's not ripe yet. I have one that is barely making marks with my fingernail. Checking it everyday.
Mother of 3, homesteader, canner, gardener, dwarf tomato participant.
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Old September 27, 2016   #6
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Dried/brown/withered tendril and spoon leaf has worked for me in NC with Ledmon, Ali Baba, and Strawberry melon watermelons.
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Old October 11, 2016   #7
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I usually just watch the tendril (it seems waiting a couple days after it shrivels is sometimes a good idea), but knocking on it helps, too. Also, they're almost always ripe if the spider mites and/or anthracnose kill the plants, regardless of their size or maturity. I have found a few exceptions, though.

Originally Posted by mamaboog View Post
Dried/brown/withered tendril and spoon leaf has worked for me in NC with Ledmon, Ali Baba, and Strawberry melon watermelons.
I just picked a Ledmon watermelon, today. I think maybe it was a mutant, because it was ribbed (like some cantaloupe are), and it was hollow (like cantaloupe are, with the seeds being in the middle, mostly), but it didn't appear to have the hollow heart design at all. Some of the loose flesh in the middle toward the seeds had a soft, squid-like texture that was very interesting (but those portions weren't sweet). The really interesting thing was that it was sweet right under the skin (I used a carrot peeler to try peeling it, and I tasted some of the rind right under the skin I had managed to peel off; other watermelons I've peeled peeled easily, but this one, not so much; peeling them makes them easy to mince with a pull-string food-chopper for relish, dips and stuff). It had kind of a leathery-looking skin that was pretty cool. It was about 20lbs, but it was much larger than you might expect due to it being hollow. It didn't split open as easily as other Ledmon watermelons I've grown. It was quite sweet, but didn't have the same taste as a much smaller, non-hollow, non-ribbed, non-leathery-skinned Ledmon watermelon that I harvested earlier in the season (that one was the best-tasting watermelon I had ever had). These were both second-year melons; so, they could have been crossed with one of the following: Jubilee, Mississippi Cobb Gem, Fairfax, Congo, Tom Watson, Red-seeded Citron (none of which are ribbed, or matched any of the departures from the regular Ledmon, to my knowledge, except it did taste a bit more like Fairfax did last year).

Anyway, I was watching the tendril, but I think it had shriveled some time ago and it just looked like it was still alive due to the thickness and the light or something, since one day I noticed it was dried out, and the next it looked alive again (but when I felt it, it was dry). I wonder if that's just what Ledmon watermelons look like when they're over-ripe. The flesh was still crisp, though (except nearer the center, where it was soft, smooth and cohesive like a squid in texture).

The seeds looked like Ledmon seeds (large; white), but some of them looked unusual in shape.

I noticed a very tiny bit of netting on the rind (like a cantaloupe, except just a bit of it), too. I don't know if that's normal. It sure didn't taste like a cantaloupe, though.

I think it's possible that plants sometimes take cues from each other (without being cross-pollinated). I don't know if this is an instance of that, though.

Just as a note, since I couldn't peel the rind to mince it afterward, I decided to freeze the rind so I could thaw it (so it would be soft and juicy), and then to blend it up to drink like a green smoothie or something (for the nutrients). I figure if it is frozen and thawed, it should blend up much more easily. So, I didn't just throw the rind out.

I grew Ali Baba this year, too. It was decent for a first-year melon.

Last edited by shule1; October 11, 2016 at 05:07 AM.
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Old June 3, 2017   #8
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I grew up on a great granddaddy raised watermelons,mostly black diamonds.The one thing he and my grandfather taught me was to always look at the under belly or field spot.If this spot was not yellow you went no farther.If in fact is was yellow........brighter the better,then you thumped it with your middle finger of one hand while laying your other hand on the opposite side.If the skin was firm and you couldn't feel the thump with the opposite hand it was not ripe.If the skin had some give as you thumped and you felt the reverb with the opposite hand far so good.Then you slid your hand under the melon,if it felt heavy for its size this melon was picked.There is an art to all this.My great granddaddy did it for over 60 years.When he was in his 90's and blind he could still pick a perfect melon........and he loved to go to the fields.It's been many years since we had melon fields but I will not buy most melons in the grocery store.Most are picked at least a week early.I do buy cantaloupes but they continue to ripen after picked........watermelons are only good pickled or composted if picked early.
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ripeness , watermelon

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