How to Tell When a Watermelon is Ripe

bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)September 5, 2011

A bit of info I thought some of you may find helpful!

I am asked many times at our farm stand to pick out a ripe melon for them from our pile we harvested.

Well, first things first, we try to pick them all ripe so they are all good I tell our customers! A few good pointers when trying to choose which melon looks yummy is to check the bottom end to see if it is yellow. Yellow bottoms mean it is good and ready. Next, check the stems, if there is a reddish syrup dripping out then you have a definite sweet one on your hands. Lastly, thump on the melon, if it is a dull sound you will know it is over ripe.

But the main job in choosing a ripe melon is out in the melon patch. We grow Lantha (a Sugar Baby Hybrid), Charleston Gray, Imagination, and my favorite, Crimson Sweet. All of these melons have a tell tale, pretty much no fail sign in judging if it is ripe or not. Find the stem and follow it to the vine it is attached to. Directly next to the stem, growing on the vine, is a tendril. It looks like a little green pig's tale. If this is completely brown then your melon is ripe. If it is green it definitely isn't ready yet.

Good luck everyone!

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These methods are not 100% reliable and can give you an overripe melon as often as just right with some varieties. One other method and among the most reliable is to feel of the melon and see if it feels lumpy/bumpy when you rub your hand over it. A green melon will never have the lumpy/bumpy feel of a ripe melon. As with all things in life, there are exceptions, Dixielee is a commercially selected melon that does not develop the bumpy surface.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 8:49PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Dar, And I found out that the Dixielee is the fastest over-ripening melon out there. You make a good point about the bumpy/ridgy surface of ripe melons. Over-ripe melons tend to be too soft while under-ripe melons are hard and non-faded.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 11:07PM
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bernadette_gourder(5 from Newaygo, MI)

For the melon varieties I listed they are all pretty easy to tell when overripe. Knock on them with your knuckles, if it is dull sounding it most likely is overripe. If it has a dead tendril and it has a sharp sound when knocked, it is probably a good one. Again, I am referring to the varieties I've listed. We grew two heirloom watermelon last year which proved to be more difficult to tell when ripe because the tendril method wasn't accurate - it was about a week after it died that it had some good flavor.
Otherwise, dead tendril and thumping have been very accurate for us - I say this with "hundreds and hundreds of harvested quality watermelons" worth of experience. :)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 1:50PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

In a home garden setting I can watch them grow and notice when they cease growing. After they stop growing the tendril will shortly turn yellow and then brown in 4 days. I like to let them further sweeten 7 to 10 days. The Dixielee is one that needs picking earlier, but I have raised dozens of varieties and almost all others keep [hold] well.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 4:45PM
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Well, this method did NOT work for us. Tendril was brown for over 2 weeks - inside was light pink around the edges, white in the middle. NOT ripe. Wasted a perfectly good melon. Will wait at least 2-3 weeks before trying the next melon with a brown tendril.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 7:22PM
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gg, you didn't name the variety. There are soil conditions that can result in melons that do not ripen properly. Also, an excess of nitrogen will cause melons to have huge white splotches inside.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 9:44PM
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Am I the only one who smells the outside of the melon to check ripeness? Works better on other melons, but I do it with watermelons too:).

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 1:47PM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Nila, If you can smell a ripe watermelon, i'd like to employ you to help me find truffles. :)

I have a pretty good honker and while I can easily smell muskmelons when they're ripe, I can't do it with honeydew and certainly not with watermelon, even the thin rind ones.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 10:47PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

The surest way to tell if a watermelon is ripe or not is to use a knife and cut it in half. Grin !

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 2:29AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Well, there is ripe and over-ripe too. Course, I would much rather habve one that is a bit over-ripe and sweet than an under-ripe one.

I raised a couple old varieties last year [Klondike Striped Blue Ribbon and Orangeglo]. These two will very quickly be soft inside. Even then, nothing beats the sweetness and taste of that Klondike...but you sacrifice crispness.

I raise mostly newer Hybrids and they keep [hold] well. My favorites are Raspa and Sangria.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Another sign to look for on the bottom yellow area are very tiny specks of black dots clustered together. These are mildew spots no bigger than a period at end of a sentence and they won't rub off like specks of soil. These black dots form when the melons has been sitting for a long time, long enough to be ripe if not over ripe. Also when checking the tendril observe the leafs closest to the melon on the vine. If the leaves look vibrant and healthy then it may be too early, if the leaves are somewhat ragged looking then it's may be ripe, it's a good confirmation combo with the brown tendril. The shine of a new melon fades to dull when ripe too and the afore mentioned lumpiness on large melons is a winner.

Hi Wayne, it's been a while, thanks again for the Raspa melon tip several years ago, they have served me well with bountiful sweetness. But alas they are too Big for me now and I need your sound advice for a smaller sweet melon version. Any favs you could recommend? Thx again.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 5:26PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

vgkg, Greetings. I haven't found much I liked in small melons and I have never grown the seedless personal melon. Years ago I had an occasional really good Fordhook Hybrid. The Yellow Doll is good and I had a superb Cooperstown seedless last year...15-22 pounds.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 6:46PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

If you have an iPhone, get the Melon Meter App. If you don't have an iPhone, get one. :-)


Here is a link that might be useful: Melon Meter App

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 1:28PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Deleting duplicate post.

Here is a link that might be useful: Melon Meter App

This post was edited by jimster on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 13:32

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 1:29PM
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Thanks Wayne, the coopertown seedless sounds good, and yellow doll has been one of my favs for years now. Too bad the smallish melons have a shorter shelf life than the Big Boys, at least that's been the case here. Crimson Sweet & Lanthum sugar baby types do grow well here so I may opt for a mid size as bernadette mentioned and pick em' at their peak. Really love the Big Raspas....maybe just one plant...I can feel that hernia already :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 5:42PM
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