Picking the perfect watermelon to buy can be tricky. It may look acceptable to the untrained eye, but get it home, and it’s tasteless or, worse yet, has a rancid bite.
Here are a few things to look for to help improve your odds of selecting a good one:
- Look for the tell-tale “ripe spot” or “ground spot.” It will be on the bottom of the melon and be a light yellow or creamy color.
- This spot develops as the melon grows on the soil. If the spot is greenish or white, it’s not ripe yet.
- Watermelons don’t continue to ripen once they’ve been picked, so this is an important clue to watch for.
- The outside rind is firm and hard, blemish free. It’s also a deep green and dull in color (not a light or bright green). No cuts, no bruises.
- If you find some soft spots, that’s a sign it’s starting to turn bad.
- A uniform color is a positive sign, indicating that the melon ripened evenly.
- Choose one that is symmetrical in shape—a nice oval or round shape. Not unevenly heavy or full on one end and thin on the other.
- This indicates that it ripened evenly, which promises consistent sweetness throughout.
- You want it good and heavy—over 90% is water. The heavier the watermelon, the juicier it is likely to be.
- If it’s light, it could be an indicator of being dry and lacking in flavor.
- The Tap Test: Rap it lightly with your knuckles. If it sounds dull or flat, it’s likely unripe.
- If it produces a resounding, robust “thud” that resonates through the fruit, this indicates ripeness and juiciness.
- Does size matter? Larger melons tend to have a higher water content.
- This typically results in a juicier product.
Practical Pointers For Your Sweet Slice
Few things are as satisfying as biting into a perfectly ripe, sweet watermelon on a hot summer day. Before you sink your teeth into the lusciousness of its juicy red flesh, it’s essential to give the outside a thorough wash, then pack and store it properly to ensure it’s the best it can be and ready to enjoy over the next few days.
- Once you bring the melon home, scrub it down with soap and water (and a healthy splash of vinegar if you like). If you don’t, you’ll drag the surface germs down into the fruit as you slice it with a knife.
- Here are some Produce Wash Recipes that will work well too.
- Use a dishcloth or vegetable brush to lift any surface grime.
- Pat it dry before cutting.
- Before eating, keep it chilled in the refrigerator for about 12 hours, depending on size.
- This will chill it quite nicely, which helps intensify the fruit’s natural sweetness and firm up its texture.
- Cut it up right before you plan on consuming it, wrap whatever is leftover, and refrigerate.
- If kept airtight and wrapped well, it will last in the fridge for several days (usually around five days, seven if you’re lucky).
- If there’s no way you’ll eat it all in time, consider cutting it into cubes (or scooped balls) and freezing them. These are ideal for smoothies, purees, sorbets, blender drinks, or even ice cubes in refreshing summer drinks.
- Here’s a tip for an easy way to cut the rind off a whole melon: “Wobbly watermelons and other melons are easier to peel when you remove both ends and stand the fruits on a flat surface. Carefully run your knife down the side of the melon to remove the rind, and then slice into wedges.” source: Martha Stewart.
- Did you know you can use the entire fruit, including the rind? The rind can be pickled and used in chutneys. See below for a few ideas.
Watermelon is one of those perfect foods–it’s healthy, contains no fat or cholesterol, yet it’s delicious and will even pass as dessert (how many foods can accomplish that!).
Watermelon Carving How-To & Inspo
There’s no more fantastic online resource than watermelon.org; their design ideas are amazing! You’ll find pictures and instructions for making all kinds of carvings. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find:
|Salsa Bowl||Flowering Garden||Butterfly Basket|
|Turtle||Halloween Carvings||Baby Carriage|
Plus a whole bunch more! Also, check out the other categories for recipes, garnish ideas, and more good stuff.
Here are some of the tips they share for carving:
- Have the melon at room temperature before carving, since the cuts will be easier. Refrigerate immediately after.
- Make a flat base on the melon by cutting a small, thin piece from the bottom (this makes it more stable when carving).
- Use a waterproof marker or sharp pencil to mark the design before cutting.
- A sharp knife with a pointed tip makes cutting easier and cleaner.
- Wear a new pair of gardening gloves with gripper palms when cutting; this gives you a better grip.
- Use round toothpicks or skewers rather than flat toothpicks when attaching cut pieces—they’re more stable.
Popular Flavor Pairings
While watermelon is delightful on its own, you can elevate its taste with a few simple additions:
- Sprinkle a dash of lime juice for a tangy twist.
- Add a sprinkle of salt to enhance its natural sweetness.
- Enjoy it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delightful contrast of flavors.
When it comes to pairing with other foods, it’s very versatile.
Its natural sweetness acts as the perfect base, blending seamlessly with a variety of ingredients to create flavor combinations that are just right.
In other words, watermelon does a lovely job of enhancing and complementing the flavors of other foods it’s paired with. Here are some popular pairings with quick recipe notes to try:
The pairing of sweet watermelon and salty feta cheese offers a satisfying contrast of flavors that strikes a harmonious balance between refreshing sweetness and savory richness.
Thread melon cubes, feta cheese, and cucumber onto skewers. Sprinkle with lemon zest and a pinch of black pepper for a delightful appetizer.
The tangy acidity of lime adds a zesty kick to the sweetness of watermelon, creating a bright and refreshing flavor combination.
Blend watermelon, lime juice, a hint of honey, and a few ice cubes until smooth. Serve over ice for a thirst-quenching Mexican-inspired drink.
Drizzling a small amount of balsamic vinegar over watermelon creates a sophisticated flavor profile, adding a tangy sweetness that enhances the fruit’s natural flavors.
Thread melon cubes onto skewers and lightly drizzle them with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a sprinkle of sea salt for a simple yet elegant appetizer or snack.
The cool and aromatic qualities of mint beautifully complement the natural sweetness of watermelon, resulting in a delightful fusion of flavors that provides a burst of freshness with every bite.
Blend melon chunks, fresh mint leaves, lime juice, and a splash of sparkling water for a revitalizing and cooling beverage.
Basil’s peppery undertones and hints of clove infuse watermelon with a sophisticated and vibrant flavor combination.
Add a handful of fresh basil leaves to a pitcher of cold watermelon-infused water for a subtly herbaceous and hydrating beverage.
The subtle heat and unique earthy flavor of ginger harmonize beautifully with the refreshing and juicy essence of watermelon, offering a delightful combination and making each bite or sip intriguing and satisfying.
Muddle fresh ginger in a glass, add watermelon juice, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and a splash of sparkling water. Stir well, garnish with a watermelon wedge and a ginger slice, and enjoy a fizzy and flavorful mocktail.
Jalapeno’s spicy kick pairs wonderfully with the natural sweetness of watermelon, adding a pleasant heat that brings depth and excitement to the overall flavor profile.
Blend watermelon, jalapeño, lime juice, and a bit of honey. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds, add a few small jalapeño slices, and freeze until solid. Enjoy these sweet and spicy popsicles as a refreshing treat.
The tropical creaminess of coconut harmoniously melds with the refreshing juiciness of watermelon, transporting your taste buds to a sunny paradise with every delightful bite.
Blend watermelon chunks, coconut water, a splash of lime juice, and a hint of agave syrup. Strain the mixture, serve over ice, and garnish with fresh mint leaves for a revitalizing and hydrating drink.
The cool and crisp nature of cucumber beautifully complements the juicy and refreshing qualities of watermelon, creating a harmonious pairing that bursts with hydrating flavors.
Combine diced melon, diced cucumber, red onion, jalapeno (optional), lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for grilled fish or chicken for a zesty and refreshing salsa.
Recipes & Treats
Here’s just a quick sample of what types of things you can make with watermelon. I’ve included popsicles, sorbet, beverages, salads, and even pickled rinds! I’ve also added a vintage pickle recipe at the bottom from an old cookbook from my personal collection, but you’ll need a whopping 16 cups of pieces to make that batch of pickles.
Directions: Click on images to visit the project page; a new browser tab will open & save your spot here
Vintage Pickles Recipe
This is from a well-worn, loose page of an old cookbook. Unknown source.
16 cups watermelon pieces
8 cups granulated sugar
4 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
1 cup salt
2 TBS whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 pieces ginger root
1 lemon, thinly sliced
- Cut watermelon into 1″ pieces (use the firm light pink flesh).
- Dissolve salt thoroughly in 8 cups cold water, pour over melon pieces–add more water if needed to cover. Let stand 6 hours; drain, rinse well and cover with fresh cold water. Cook until just tender; drain.
- Tie spices in a cheesecloth bag and combine with remaining ingredients; simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add fruit and simmer until clear; remove spice bag. Add boiling water to the syrup if it becomes too thick before the melon pieces are clear.
- Pack, boiling hot, into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/8-inch head space; seal.
Yield: Makes 6-8 oz jars