If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with knowing when a watermelon is ripe. This is my third year growing watermelon, and I’ve just now figured it out. The old-timer’s method of tapping on the rind, listening for the “hollow sound,” just didn’t work for me. It’s too subjective. I thought I was a hopeless case on this until I saw a video from Colorado State by an extension employee who said she couldn’t get it right either, then proceeded to show a more objective way to know when a watermelon is ripe. Bingo! I’ve finally got it right.
A watermelon goes through several stages of growth before it becomes ripe. First, it starts as a female flower with a small melon-shaped ovary. If it gets pollinated, a small melon begins to grow.
From this point, it takes about 30 days to mature. If you notice the melon as soon as it is pollinated, you can start marking the days to know when to check for ripeness. But you don’t always notice them. I often first find the melons under all the vines when they’re already the size of a softball.
Well, even if you can’t count the days from pollination, you can still know when the watermelon is ripe.
THREE POINTS FOR KNOWING WHEN A WATERMELON IS RIPE:
1. Know how big the fruit for your variety will get. My Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon averages 8-10 pounds. If I were growing a Charleston gray watermelon, which can reach 20-40 pounds, I wouldn’t begin to think it was ripe when it looked like it weighed only 10 pounds.
2. Once your watermelon is getting close to the proper size, start looking at the tendrils closest to where the melon is attached to the vine. There should be one on each side of the vine. Normally, those tendrils are light green and very pliant. When the watermelon is ripe, both those tendrils next to the fruit will dry up and turn brown.
3. Finally, once the tendrils are dried and shriveled, very carefully turn over the watermelon. Be gentle because some varieties have very thin rinds and can crack easily. When you turn over the watermelon, examine the spot where the melon touched the ground. If that spot is creamy-yellow to yellow (depending on variety), then your watermelon is ripe.
If the bottom isn’t yellow enough, carefully turn the watermelon back onto its bottom and check again in another day or two. Don’t wait too long, though, because overripe watermelons can split – especially on hot summer days.
Of course, you’ll know if the watermelon you harvested is perfectly ripe when you cut it open. The flesh will be the proper color for the variety and the majority of the seeds will be mature (usually black). For the Cream of Saskatchewan variety, the flesh is a cream color with black seeds.
If you follow the three steps above, with every bite, your watermelons will be ripe enough to bring sweetness to your mouth and dribbles of sugar water to your chin!
Please comment below if this tutorial was helpful to you in knowing when your watermelons are ripe enough to harvest.
Happy watermelon eating!