The 3 Easiest Ways To Tell if a Watermelon Is Ripe|Recipes Spots

The 3 Easiest Ways To Tell if a Watermelon Is Ripe

Bowl of watermelon cubes with watermelon slices behind it on a wood serving platter
Lori Rice

Try as you might, it’s impossible to tell what the inside of a watermelon looks like without cutting into it. That’s why trying to choose a ripe watermelon out of the tottering pile at the grocery store can feel like such a shot in the dark—but it doesn’t have to be.

If you want to pick a good, ripe watermelon every time for refreshing salads, cocktails, and frozen treats, here are three tried-and-true expert tips to consider.

1. Looks Do Matter

A watermelon with bruises, dents, and bumps is out of the running. Small superficial scratches are OK—it probably happened during transportation. Also, as Kim Severson writes in the New York Times, you want a watermelon that’s uniform in shape with a dull, matte sheen. “Odd bumps and curves can mean it was grown with irregular runs of water or sun,” she writes, which doesn’t bode well for its flavor.

A pile of watermelons with field spots
Simply Recipes / Getty Images

2. Spot the Field Spot

According to the experts at the National Watermelon Promotion Board, the real tell-tale sign of a ripe watermelon is “a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun” on the underside of the watermelon.

This yellow spot is known as the field spot. Though it looks like a place where a watermelon might’ve gone bad, as Harold McGee explains in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the “yellow skin undertones are indicative of chlorophyll loss and thus ripeness.” A watermelon with a creamy yellow field spot is likely perfectly ripe inside.

3. No Stem

You want to make sure there’s no stem on your watermelon; that indicates the watermelon was picked too early and didn’t have a chance to fall off the vine, which it does naturally when it is ripe. And a green stem still attached means the watermelon was just picked, but didn’t get a chance to ripen.

A ripe watermelon has a brown stem or the stem end, where it was cut off looks dark, not bright green.

Four types and sizes of watermelon
Lori Rice

What About Tapping the Watermelon?

Some folks swear by the so-called watermelon thump test, knocking on the rind of the melon to hear what sound it makes. And though it’s an imperfect way to pick a ripe watermelon, especially on its own, there is some logic to it.

You’re trying to judge the water content of the fruit, and if it sounds hollow when you tap your knuckles, it’s good to go. A dull sound, or a deep thud, means the fruit hasn’t reached its prime yet and isn’t ripe enough. This test really only works if you have experience—or a music degree from the prestigious Juilliard.

Fortunately, there are more objective ways to determine if a watermelon is ripe or not.

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