How to Pick a Perfectly Ripe Watermelon Every Time

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

In the quest for the perfect summer fruits, it pays to be picky. Last month, we brought you our foolproof guide to choosing the perfect ripe avocado, and today we’re focusing on another summertime favorite—watermelon. The refreshing summer fruit is 92% water by nature, making it the ideal healthy, refreshing treat for fighting off those impromptu heat waves. Rife with vitamin C and antioxidants, watermelon contains valuable amino acids, vitamin A, B6, and potassium. It’s also chock-full of lycopene, one of the most powerful antioxidants available ever.

So what does it take to get the perfect melon? The selection process involves a combination of aesthetic criteria and sound testing. Everything from weight to stripe symmetry comes into play. We’ll walk you through the three-step process to taking home the pick of the litter every time. After our quick and conveniently illustrated tutorial, you’ll be a total pro. All that’s left is showing off at the farmers’ market.

We’ll start with visuals, since they offer the most obvious clues. Throughout the ripening process, watermelons will turn a deeper green (unless you’re dealing with a yellow varietal). You want to look for high contrast between stripes—think chartreuse next to a deep emerald. The more vibrant the color disparity, the sweeter the melon.

Shiny melons are under-ripe, so steer clear of anything high sheen (also true of honeydews). We know that “lacquered look” is très chic, but in this case, it gets a pass.

The melon itself should be free of any unsightly bumps. Irregularities in the shape may indicate areas that received inconsistent amounts of water or sunlight.

Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngeles

Check out the pinstripes. You’re going for symmetry. The neater the rows, the better the melon.

Being that watermelons are so dense in water, a ripe fruit will feel heavy for its size—even if it’s of a smaller varietal.

Pick it up and pat the underbelly of the melon. A ripe melon will produce a deep, hollow sound. Under-ripe melons will sound more like a dull thud. The surface of the melon should be hard and firm. Under-ripe melons will have a softer flesh, thus producing a less-than-rich sound. Don’t try it till you knock it.

Watermelons will naturally develop a yellow splotch at the place they rest on the ground. When they are ripe and ready to eat, the splotch will turn a buttery yellow hue. The more golden the splotch, the longer the melon stayed on the vine sweetening up.

Avoid melons with white patches or non-existent patches; these mean they’re under-ripe.

Put our guide to the test and queue up our favorite recipes with chic entertainment additions below.

Camille Styles

Watermelon, Feta, and Blackberry Skewers

This effortless entertaining recipe composed of cubed watermelon, feta, basil leaves, and fresh blackberries drizzled with olive oil is among our favorite for backyard barbecues. Now that you’ve mastered your melon-picking skills, it’s sure to be all the sweeter.

West Elm Marble + Wood Cutting Board $39

This sleek and sophisticated cutting board is stylish enough to double as tabletop décor.

Sur La Table Knotted Bamboo Skewers $8
Anthropologie Gloriosa Serving Platter $48

Keeping chic serveware on hand is a must for throwing together that last-minute summer block party décor.

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