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How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe – Whether In Your Garden Or In A Store!

Looking for a few simple ways of knowing how to tell when a watermelon is ripe and ready to be harvested from your garden – or in the store?

Summertime is the season of fresh local fruits and vegetables, but not many come close to being as satisfying as a big slice of watermelon! The juice, the flavor and the aroma are the perfect combination for refreshing anyone on a hot summer day. But growing your own can be a challenge for sure.

For many gardeners, one of the most frustrating things about growing watermelons can be knowing when they are ready to pick and eat. You spend so much time watching the melon form and grow into a beautiful shape, only to be devastated to realize that you picked it at the wrong time. 

A watermelon growing on a vine.
There’s nothing like the treat of a homegrown watermelon – but only if it is picked at the right time!

Harvest the watermelon too early and you are left with a flavorless fruit full of useless green flesh and rind. Harvest it too late, and the fruit becomes overripe and mushy with a super strong, fermented odor and off-putting flavor. It can be just as frustrating when picking out one in a store.

Neither scenario is good when you’ve spent so much of the summer months waiting for the watermelon to grow. So before you make the mistake of picking the watermelon before it is ready, keep the following tips in mind. 

How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe

Unlike tomatoes which can continue to ripen after you pick them from the vine, watermelons do not. Once you pick them, that’s as ripe as they will get. So you must harvest them at just the right time or you will be left with disappointment the moment you cut through it. (See, “How To Ripen Tomatoes Off The Vine.”)

Each one of the following tips can help indicate when a watermelon is ripe and ready for you to pick. However, you need to keep them all in mind to help give you the overall picture. Just going off of one method might not still get you the results you are after. 

Whether you are growing a Suger Baby watermelon or a Florida Giant watermelon, these simple tips will work for all varieties so you can enjoy the fruit you invested so much time and effort in growing.

Look At The Field Spot – How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe In A Garden Or A Store

The first way to check if your watermelon is ready for you to pick is to look at its field spot. 

A watermelon with a creamy yellow field spot.
Look at the field spot and ensure that it is nice and yellow instead of white.

When watermelons grow, the side of the fruit that comes into contact with the soil is the field spot. These patches appear because light and air are not able to reach the bottom side of the fruit. Instead of being the iconic green color you normally associate with watermelon rind, the spot is an off-white color instead. 

Some gardeners turn their melons weekly to help avoid this field spot from occurring. However, by doing this, they are getting rid of one of the easiest ways to tell if a watermelon is ripe and ready to be picked or not. 

While the watermelon is growing, the field patch is mostly a bright off-white color. This will continue to stay off-white until the fruit starts to ripen. When this happens, the spot with turn into a creamy yellow to darker yellow color. 

Once you see that patch turn from white to yellow, it’s time to pick! 

You can even use this trick to know if a store-purchased watermelon is going to be at its peak freshness or not. If the spot is still white, choose a different melon for purchase. If you see that the field spot is a nice yellowish color, then that’s the one to grab.

Give It A Knock – How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe In A Garden Or A Store

Another indication of whether a watermelon is ripe is to give it a light knock. You don’t want to hit the melon too hard. Just a light knock like you are tapping on the door of someone’s house.  

Watermelons actually have a different sound when they are under-ripe as opposed to when they are fully ripe. This is another indicator you can use while in the middle of a grocery store or farmer’s market if you are purchasing your watermelon as opposed to growing your own.

As they grow, a light knock on the outside of the watermelon will result in a higher pitch sound that is the result of the thick rind and flesh. But when a watermelon is ripe and ready for picking, it will sound more like a hollow thump. 

When growing your own watermelon, the best way to start distinguishing between the two sounds is to knock on a few melons that you know aren’t ripe yet. Every couple of days, attempt knocking again and see how the sound changes. Before long, you will become a knocking expert!

A hand knocking on a growing watermelon in a garden
It might seem silly, but a light knock on your growing watermelon can help you know when it’s ripe.

Look At The Tendril – How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe

This last trick only works if you are growing the watermelons yourself or are at a “you-pick” farm. But it is a sure indicator of readiness. That trick is to look at the tendril that is closest to the watermelon. 

You can see a curly little cord right near where the melon attaches to the stem. This tendril helps to provide the watermelon with nutrients, but you can use it to know the state of the melon’s ripeness as well.  

A young watermelon just starting to grow in a garden but it shows the tendril.
This little curly tendril will help you indicate whether it is ready to pick or if it needs more time growing.

If the tendril is still green and has some spring left to it, then the watermelon is still growing and is not ready for picking. Once it turns brown and starts to die off, the watermelon is now ready for harvesting. 

Signs Of Overripe Watermelons – How To Tell When A Watermelon Is Ripe In A Garden Or A Store

Just like you can have indications of a ripe or still-growing watermelon, there are also a few signs of one that is overripe as well. This can be just as disappointing as picking one that isn’t ready yet. 

One of the best ways of checking this is by pressing on the blossom end of the watermelon. If it is nice and solid, then you aren’t too late for picking. If the end has some give or feels mushy, then the inside of the melon is likely overripe. This is a good indication the watermelon is past its prime.

As with anything, the more you practice these techniques and get a feel for a watermelon’s ripeness indicators, the better you will be at picking your watermelons at their perfect ripeness. Whether in your garden, or off of a display in the store!

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