This Handy Chart Shows How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon

As soon as summer hits, we're thinking of more ways to enjoy watermelon! You can dice it, slice it, or even grill it—and don't even get us started on Ree Drummond's watermelon-feta salad. Plus, watermelon drinks are always a cool refreshment. But before you dig into any of these watermelon recipes, you'll need to pick the perfect watermelon.

Peak watermelon season runs from May to August in the United States. But if you've ever wondered how to tell if a watermelon is ripe, well, you're not alone! We have some tips to ensure you bring home the sweetest of the bunch.

Just take a look at our handy chart that gives visual cues on how to know when a watermelon is ripe. And follow along with the help of watermelon expert, Jordan Carter, past president of the National Watermelon Promotion Board and vice president of sales and marketing at Leger & Son, Inc., watermelon growers in Cordele, Georgia. You'll be eating a juicy, sweet slice of watermelon in no time.

how to pick a watermelon
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How do you pick a good watermelon?

Look, lift, and turn the melon so you can inspect all sides, says Carter. It's best to avoid buying any watermelon that has cuts, dents, soft spots, or bruises. Here's what to look for when picking a watermelon:

how to pick watermelon
The Pioneer Woman

Shape

While it doesn't matter if your watermelon is oval or round (that just indicates different varieties), try to avoid watermelons that are irregular in shape. Look for a uniform watermelon that's heavy for its size.

Field Spot

The field spot is the area where it sat on the ground as it ripened. "You want it to be a creamy or buttery yellow color," Carter says. "If it's white or green, it was harvested too soon before it was ripe and may not taste sweet."

Webbing:

Despite its unappealing name, webbing on a watermelon can actually be a good thing. 'Webbing' refers to the course, web-like, brown scuffs on the rind (green outer skin) of the watermelon. These brown spots are scars from pollination, so the more webbing there is, the more times a bee pollinated the watermelon as a flower. And, in turn, the more pollination, the sweeter the fruit! So, if you see these imperfections on a melon at the store, don't toss it to the side, as there's a good chance it's extra sweet.

Skin

Look at the rind of your watermelon to determine if it's ripe. It should be more matte or dark in appearance, while a shiny, light watermelon is more likely to be unripe. Fun fact: There's no advantage to choosing solid-colored versus striped—this just has to do with the different watermelon varieties.

Can you thump a watermelon to see if it's ripe?

Some folks swear by this method: If you thump the rind of a watermelon and it sounds hollow, then it's ripe, juicy, and ready to eat; if the thump produces a higher-pitch ringing sound, it's underripe; then if you just hear a thud, it's overripe.

Another ripeness test that people often mention is picking up a watermelon to see if it feels heavy. So theoretically, you could even pick up two watermelons of similar size and see if one feels heavier than the other.

Do either of these methods guarantee a juicy, sweet, ripe watermelon? Of course not. The only way to know if a watermelon is truly sweet and flavorful is by taking a big bite! But these tricks work for many and might be worth trying.

how to pick a watermelon
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What about seeded versus seedless watermelon?

It's really a matter of personal preference, says Carter. Some people love the nostalgia of the seeded varieties, but many others prefer no seeds. But there's no advantage to choosing one type over the other.

Some seedless melons will have a gap or three-pointed hole, known as "hollow heart" right in the center of your watermelon. These cavities form inside the fruit, usually in seedless melons, due to inadequate pollination by bees because of unfavorable weather conditions, low bee numbers, or an inadequate supply of pollinator plants. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the melon, and it's totally fine to eat; it's just a little imperfect in appearance, says Carter.

How do you know when a watermelon is ready to harvest?

If you've taken on the task of growing your own watermelon, note that most watermelon varieties take from 80 to 90 days to mature. Use the chart above, look for the field spot, and check that the green tendrils and main vine have turned brown, then it should be ready to pick! Depending on the variety grown and weather conditions that year, the sugar content in your watermelon can vary. For example, in extremely rainy years, the watermelon may absorb too much rain and taste bland, says Carter. But keep trying! The next one may be sweet and delicious.

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