We all love a good watermelon. At its best, a watermelon is crisp, sweet, and irresistibly juicy. Whether you’re enjoying watermelon wedges on a picnic, cooling off with chilled watermelon cubes, or at home making a fruit salad, watermelon is frequently the ingredient that takes the snack up a notch. If you can figure out the answer to, “When is watermelon ripe?” you’re bound to get a great snack out of it.
On the other hand though, if it’s not ripe yet or even overripe, watermelon is a different kind of experience altogether. If harvested prematurely it can be dull and flavorless. If harvested too late it can be mushy, gritty, and gross. Unfortunately, being able to tell when a watermelon is ripe by looking at the fruit before it’s been cut can be challenging and the ripening process does not continue after it’s harvested. Still, there are a few good indicators that you can look for that can help you. So, if you’re interested in learning how to tell when a watermelon is ripe, keep reading.
When is Watermelon Ripe?
Watermelons ripen in the summer, usually a little over a month after the crop has bloomed. If you’re growing your own watermelon, on average it takes roughly 80 days from when it’s planted before a fully ripe fruit appears. So, when is watermelon ripe? It depends, and every plant is a little different. But, when you get to that 70-day mark and things are going well, get ready and keep a close eye on your crop. It’ll be almost ready.
How to Tell When A Watermelon is Ripe
Although it may be a little more difficult than others, like any fruit, being able to physically handle it will help you be able to determine when a watermelon is ripe. Below, we’ll go through various characteristics that you can look for to help you make this determination.
Check the Field Spot
You may assume that the best watermelon is the one that has those beautiful green streaks all around, but this is actually not the case. Our first tip for how you can tell when a watermelon is ripe is to check its “field spot.” The field spot is the spot where the fruit was resting on the ground when it was in the field. A watermelon with a creamy, yellow, or amber color is a good sign. If the field spot is white, it’s likely that it was harvested a little too early. Look for a melon with a large, colorful field spot.
Examine the Rind
This leads us to our next tip. Examine the rest of the watermelon’s rind. Unless it has been coated in wax, ripe watermelon should not be particularly glossy. As with the last tip, if you judge it based purely on aesthetics, you’re unlikely to have any idea regarding when a watermelon is ripe. A dull color can be an encouraging sign whereas shininess likely indicates that is not yet ripe. Furthermore, what may appear to be ugly black spots that appear, particularly on the field spot, are actually a good sign. These are pollination spots that indicate that the melon is sugary and bursting with sweetness.
Give it the Tap Test
Our third tip to help you determine when a watermelon is ripe is to give it the “tap test.” Pick up your watermelon with one hand and knock on it with the other and listen to the sound. If the sound is really dull and you don’t feel the vibrations from your taps on the other side, it may be mushy and overripe. Conversely, a higher pitched sound can indicate that it is unripe. What you’re looking for is a good, hollow, knocking sound.
Give it the Smell Test
The next test you can do to figure out when a watermelon is ripe is to give it the “smell test.” This may be one of the harder tests because the difference between a result that indicates ripeness and a result that does not can be quite subtle. However, if you give your watermelon a sniff, ripe watermelon should give off notes of sweetness. Conversely, an unripe watermelon may not smell like much of anything. If you smell a watermelon and it has an unusually potent aroma, it is likely well overripe.
Give it the Squeeze Test
This test to tell when a watermelon is ripe is really simple and quick. There are many fruits such as avocados, mangos, peaches, nectarines, and plumbs that you can squeeze to determine their ripeness. There’s an element of this with watermelon too. Take your thumb and firmly press on the rind of the watermelon. It should be firm but have a little bit of give to it if it is ripe. An unripe watermelon will be firm and have no give whatsoever. However, if it’s soft, then you know it’s overripe.
Examine the Tendril
Next, examine the tendril. This can tell you a lot, but a drawback of this method of determining when a watermelon is ripe is that if you’re looking at watermelons that have already been picked, it may be harder to tell. Nevertheless, if the spot where the fruit’s tendril was is green, then it was likely picked before it was ready. A dark brown color is a good indicator that it was allowed to fully ripen on the vine.
Pick it Up
Our final method of determining when a watermelon is ripe is the “weight test.” This test is much easier to do if you have access to several watermelons so that you can compare them. A ripe watermelon will feel heavier than it looks. This isn’t to say to look for the biggest watermelon there. Rather, try to find the densest one that also passes the other tests.
Learn More About Watermelons
So, next time that you’re at the store trying to pick a watermelon, run a few through these quick and easy tests and you’ll be far more likely to land upon the best, most sweet, crispy, and delicious watermelon that they have in stock.
That said, by the time you’re plucking the watermelon, whether it be from the vine or from a shelf in your local grocery store, the watermelon’s journey is near its end. There’s a lot more that occurs earlier on.
Want to learn more about this iconic summer fruit? Then visit our watermelon plants page to learn more about watermelon planting, growing, cooking, and more!