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Determining Watermelon Ripeness

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

One of the great mysteries of growing melons is how to determine when they are ripe. Many listeners called last week and wanted to know about their melons so here is the best way to determine ripeness.

Several methods help determine maturity. Gardeners must become familiar with the variety they are growing to determine the best stage for harvesting.

A dead tendril or curl at the point where the fruit attaches to the vine is not a conclusive indication that the fruit is ready for harvest but if the tendril is not dead, the melon is not ripe.

Some gardeners thump the fruit, but this is reliable only for over-ripeness. The sound of a watermelon, when thumped with a finger, is a muffled, dull tone if it is ripe. An immature fruit will thump with a clear, metallic ringing tone.

The best indicator for harvest is the color of the underside of the melon where the melon is lying on the ground. As a watermelon ripens, the ground spot changes from pale green or white to cream or yellow.

When `Crimson Sweet' melons turn yellowish-brown on the bottom surface, they are fully ripe and ready for harvest. The fruits will take on a dull appearance compared to their slick appearance prior to maturity.

Determining the proper time to harvest seedless watermelons is generally more difficult than for seeded melons. The death of a tendril usually does not correlate with seedless watermelon ripeness.

Melon under color is usually the only index of maturity on seedless watermelons and this color will vary among varieties.

Never leave melons in the sun after they ripen or they may develop sunscald.

Handle melons gently to avoid bruising. Store watermelons at 50° to 60°F and 90 percent relative humidity.

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