How to Pick the Perfect Melon
Never settle for sad, mealy melons again.
With warm weather and fresh produce being plentiful, summer is a great time to enjoy fresh fruit. But alongside summer comes one of the most difficult decisions to make: choosing melons. I don't know if there is anything more disappointing than an unripe melon. So every choice at the farmers market or in the produce aisles is fraught with stress. People thumping and sniffing and pressing, and no one really seems to know exactly what magic formula you need to find a melon that will be delicious, sweet and juicy, and not crunchy or dry. We're here to set that straight with this handy guide for picking out the perfect melon.
All melons you pick should be free of blemishes or damage and should have a smooth stem end with no stem still attached. If the stem is still there, it was removed from the vine early, ripe melons will pull away cleanly. Ripe melons will feel heavy for their size, if they feel light, they are not as juicy, and juiciness equates to ripeness. If a melon has a pale-yellow patch on one side that may be slightly flattened, this is where it rested on the ground, and is a good sign for ripeness.
Cantaloupes or Other Netted Melons
These melons, such as cantaloupe, have a raised pattern of netting on the exterior, and the benefit of continuing to ripen after picking, so even if there is not a perfectly ripe one at the store, as long as you know what to look for, you can bring one home and let it finish ripening on the counter. Netted melons should have a rough beige net over the exterior. If the space between the netting is dark green, the melon is not ripe, you are looking for more of a yellowish tinge to the rind. The stem end should give slightly to pressure, and the melon should smell very sweet, with a subtle musk to it.
Honeydew melons do not ripen off vine, so you really want to be sure to pick a great one! For starters, look for the color. Yellow tinge means ripe, white means almost ripe, green rind is unripe. Fully ripe honeydews will be extra sweet and juicy, but hard to cut, and will not keep their shape, so if you intend to use in fruit salad or sliced on a platter, look for more of a white hue, if you are eating in wedges, go for yellow. Shake the melon, ripe ones will have seeds that shake around inside, while unripe seeds stay firmly attached. The rind should be matte, and feel a bit textured, and maybe even sticky. If the rind is shiny or smooth, it is not ripe. The stickiness means there is so much sugary juice inside it is starting to come thru the rind, so that one is really perfect. It should have a pronounced sweet smell to the exterior.
The underside spot where the watermelon rested on the ground should be yellow, if it is green or white, it was not on the vine long enough. It should be pretty symmetrical, and the rind should be matte, not shiny. Watermelons should be very heavy for their size and make a dull thud when tapped. Think about looking for a stud in a plaster wall, when the sound goes dead, that is where the stud is. In watermelons, if it sounds hollow when tapped, there is not a lot of juice to deaden the sound. You want a low thudding sound, which means that there is plenty of juicy sweetness.