Experts’ tricks to choosing the perfect NC watermelon

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In the garden, at the farmer’s market or on the way to the beach, it’s all the same — You’ve thumped, you’ve hoisted, you’ve peered and you’ve pondered. But picking the right watermelon, one that’s ripe, sweet and juicy, is still a crap shoot.

So we asked four experts: a person who sells the melons at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh, two growers and, just for good measure, the North Carolina Watermelon Queen.

Some of them recommended one thing, some another. Below is their collected wisdom.

Look at the color.

Melons have a pale underside. On ripe specimens, the patch will turn creamy.

“The yellower the belly on the bottom, the sweeter these watermelons are going to be,” said Jordan Johnson, who sells watermelons at the State Farmers Market for Ashland Meadows Family Farm.

The contrast and width of stripes can also tell you something about the state of a melon.

“I like to look and see if it has those stripes, the darker green and the light green,” said Emma Cannon, the North Carolina Watermelon Queen.

These characteristics can vary by melon variety. Your grower or seller might be able to offer more specifics.

Give it a whack.

Thumping a ripe melon produces a specific sound, growers said, describing it as “hollow,” or “like a drum.”

“It’ll have a good, hollow sound to it,” said William Wise, who grows watermelons in Wayne County.

Look at the string

As melons grow in the field, a “string” branches off the vine a short distance above the melon itself. The tendril is green as the melon is growing, but dies, curls up and dries when the melon is ripe, even though the main vine will stay green, farmer Tommy Core said.

The string isn’t on every melon that’s offered for sale, but if you see it still on the vine, it’s worth eyeing.

On the other hand, if the stem itself has dried up and fallen away, give the melon a pass, as it’s likely to be overripe, Core said.

Pick it up

The melon should be 92 percent water, so a good melon will be heavy, Cannon said.

But will it be sweet?

The Watermelon Queen said she goes for rich, deep greens in the hopes that they’ll signal bright red, sweet insides to a watermelon.

But the farmers agreed there’s only one way to know for sure — though you probably can’t pull this trick off in a supermarket.

“Put the knife in it,” Wise said.

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