Country Living Series

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not yet

The watermelons and cantaloups in the garden have been getting bigger and bigger. But were they ripe?

Don decided to find out.

So he went through all the plants and picked the biggest melon he could find.

Then he took it into the house and sliced it open.

Nope. Not ripe.

So we sliced it and gave it to the chickens, who thought it was Just Great.

Later on, Polly chewed on the pecked-out rinds.

But this green melon begs the question, how can you tell when a watermelon is ripe? We tried the old "thump it" trick (where you snap your finger against the rind, and if it sounds dull then it's ripe) but clearly it didn't work.

Determining ripeness turns out to be a subtle science. I found a link to a gardening website which offered much advice, the most useful of which are:

• Look for the spot where the melon rested on the ground; a yellow-white, yellow or a cream-yellow color spot suggests ripeness and a white or pale green spot indicates immaturity. A green watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom. Those fruit that show a change of color from green or olive-grey to yellowish brown should be considered ready to harvest. Also look for a breakup of green bands at the blossom end of the fruit. For best quality, walk the patch daily.

• Check the tendril. If the tendril is green, you should wait to pick the melon. Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem, the "pigtail" or tendril closest to the melon on the vine begins to shrivel and dry up. If it dries while the leaves and rest of the vine looks good, the melon should be ripe.

And, when in doubt:

• Crack a few. You've got a whole field of watermelons, and you can practice a little, right?

• Still confulsed? Guess. All indicators will not always work. Take your best shot and go with it.

In short, there doesn't appear to be an absolute determinant to figuring out when a watermelon is ripe. I'll try checking the "pigtail" tendril as well as the color on the melon's bottom next time.


  1. Bah they can tell you about the tendril spoon leaf, the coloring on the bottom and talk about martians raiding your garden when they are ripe. Science my Irish Butt. Finding a ripe water melon is simply an act of sheer luck. I have even picked water melons this year already that passed all three tests, thumping, bottom color and spoon leaf dried up, and they still were not ripe.

    I been growing them for years and I still can't tell.

    1. I found that same page. I think it has more to do with weather, or experience, than anything.
      My hubby is pretty good at picking them. But when I used those recommendations, my melons were either not ripe or over ripe.
      Most of our melons, if edible, it was never a whole one. Even my hubby didn't have a good run with ours. We ended up frustrated with the weeds (our first garden), so hubby plowed them under.
      He's been picking excellent store watermelon. We'll try again next year. Good luck!

  2. I live in an area of southern Idaho where they grow a lot of watermelons and sell them locally to grocery stores and farmers markets and they all pick them when the part touching the ground is yellowish in color. My property doesn't have the best soil for growing melons and the climate is a bit different from where they grow them, but I normally don't harvest any watermelons till September and for me normally all the vines start dying back at that point in time, so we just pick them all and store them in a cooler room in the house and they keep for a month or two that way. Always are super sweet and delicious, so I guess really its a trial and error approach to it I guess.

  3. The underside color is a good indicator, but here in the Deep South, I was taught to pat the watermelon, rather than thump, and determine the point of prime ripeness by feel, not sound.

    Put your hands on approximately opposite sides of the melon (not blossom and stem end, but side-to-side). Give a few quick pats to the melon, like you were burping a baby. You should be able to feel "waves" of vibration clearly in your opposite hand - again, similar to burping a baby or patting a dog - it feels "alive". If it feels like you are patting a stump or a piece of wood, the melon is not ripe.

  4. So many different ways!!!
    I was taught to tell if they were ripe by patting it also but it was the sound hollow. My grandmother used to tell me if it sounded like your tummy then it was ripe. Has worked every time for us, not saying it would work for anyone else though.. On cantaloupes the stem will fall off the melon easily and that end will smell sweet and like a cantaloupe. Also the seeds will rattle when they are ripe.

  5. Patrice, I so enjoyed the picture of Polly enjoying the left overs. I had a silly Appy gelding years ago that thought watermelons were the best treat!
    I was taught to pickup a melon and smell it. A melon not quite ripe has very little odor. Works for me.

  6. I was taught the color change method by my step-dad, and he was so good at raising melons of any kind. Recently I was shown a trick for cantaloupe and I have used it on melons. The end where the flower bloomed, press it, if it has a little give the melon is ripe if it is solid the melon is not ripe. I have out used this on store bought fruit an it has not let me down. Just another way of checking for the ripening of the fruit.

    For those who do not know how to check an avocado you press the stem, if it goes in the avocado is ripe. If it is firm then the fruit is not ripe and you can put it in a brown paper bag for a couple of days on your counter top. This way you do not bruise the fruit(brown spots)under the skin.

  7. I wait until the melons come off the vine themselves. Every day I turn the melons in my garden to make sure I don't have problems with bugs or cracks. When I notice a melon has come off the vine, I take it in. I've never had and unripe melon doing this.

  8. There is a cup shaped leaf next to the tendril, when they both dry up the melon should be ready to harvest. That has worked for me so far.

  9. I swear by the spoon leaf and tendril. When the spoon leaf is gone and the tendril closest to the melon is dried up, then I pick it. I had a heck of a time picking out the ripe ones until I watched a Youtube video that showed the spoon leaf and tendril method. Works great for us.

  10. My neighbor farms watermelons. We had asked him the same question last year during harvest time. He said that the powder coating appears on them the day they are ready to pick.
    Hope this helps.

  11. when I was a child we would stop at the fruit stand. They always plugged the melon. Cut a triangle with a knife and pull it out. If it was ripe it would be nice and red and juicy!

  12. Pig tail always worked for me

  13. This is what I was taught-rap your knuckles on the watermelon, then rap your head, (not ripe), your chest (ripe), your stomach (over-ripe). I would explain this system to people looking at the watermelon bin in the store, and it would be really fun watching them banging away on their body parts.

  14. Your garden's looking lush and healthy Patrice. Good luck with sorting out the ripe melons. After all your efforts you don't want to have to waste them using a "hit and miss" method. Mind you, Polly and the chooks won't mind lol.

  15. Patrice,
    If those are Blacktail Mountain Watermelons, I found out last year that they also need to turn a solid dark green. If they are still stripy, they are not yet ripe. I anxiously await my first ripe one this year. I did get my first ripe Charentais Musk Melon and it was wonderful! Good luck.