By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
No one wants to cut into a melon they just bought to find it under-ripe, over-ripe, mealy or rotten. The following should be a helpful guide to help you select the perfect melon the next time you go shopping for one. With this knowledge in hand, you should feel empowered to select a melon that will meet all of your anticipations and expectations. Enjoy!
By far the most popular melon. We sold about 8,000 pounds worth of seedless watermelon last year at Wheatsfield. Watermelon varieties that still contain their seeds usually are more flavorful and sweet than seedless varieties, but the vast consumer preference is for seedless watermelon.
Seedless watermelon, contrary to what you may have heard, is not a genetically modified organism. They are more like a mule, which is the infertile offspring of a fertile donkey and a fertile horse. Some watermelons are diploid in nature (meaning they have two sets of chromosomes) and some are triploid (meaning they have three sets of chromosomes.) If you take a fertile diploid watermelon and cross-pollinate it with a fertile triploid watermelon, the resulting fruit contains seeds which will grow to produce infertile, seedless watermelons. The seeds contain the right genetic information for creating fruit, but not the right information to create new seeds.
Seeded or seedless, to select a ripe watermelon you need to gently knock on it with your knuckles. You should hear a solid, high pitched noise similar to that of knocking on a door. If you hear a flat, hollow sound that sounds like you just knocked on a half-inflated basketball, then the melon is likely over-ripe and should be avoided. The bottom of the watermelon should have a few cream to yellow colored patches where the watermelon was resting on the ground in the field. If these spots are white, the melon is likely under-ripe.
The second most popular melon at Wheatsfield, with sales of approximately 1,500 pounds, is cantaloupe. Look for a golden color (green indicates an under-ripe melon), no stem (an attached stem means the plant was picked prematurely), defined netting, fruit heavy for its size and a pleasant aroma coming from the blossom end of the fruit (opposite the stem end.)
This melon is very tricky. Most people do not know how to pick a ripe honeydew, and because of this have likely eaten many bland, crunchy honeydews. Honeydew goes from green to white to yellow while ripening. A green honeydew will not ripen after it is picked and should not be eaten. A white honeydew will ripen on your countertop in a few days, and a yellow honeydew should be eaten immediately or refrigerated until you do eat it.
You can also pick up a honeydew and shake it. If you hear seeds rattling around in there, then the melon is ready to eat. If you don’t hear anything, then it is likely still not ripe. Ripe honeydew will also have a soft, slightly sticky skin as the fruit is so full of sugar it is seeping out of the rind.
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