It's that time of year where you'll see watermelons in every grocery store and roadside produce stand, and nothing is more disappointing than cutting into one and discovering the inside is hard, pale, and not very sweet. That can surely put a damper on your cookout plans.
I know that the good ole Southern way of traditionally picking out a sweet melon is to 'thump' it. Although this does work to an extent, there are a few other ways that I prefer.
A yellow underside
I have found that the most reliable way of telling if a watermelon will be sweet or not is to check the underside. This bottom of a watermelon should be a creamy yellow, ( not white). This means the melon was allowed to lie on the ground and ripen in the sun before it was picked. If the melon is green all over, it means it was picked prematurely and won't be nearly as sweet.
Brown spots and webbing
The longer a melon lies on the ground, the more discolored the bottom will be. If there are brown spots, or even webbing, on the bottom, this is even better. This is pretty much a guarantee it will be sweet. As you can see in the photo above, there are plenty of brown spots and webbing on this melon I grabbed at the grocery store.
When buying a melon from a farmer's market or roadside produce stand, check the melon for any tiny holes in small clusters anywhere on the skin. This means that bees were burrowing and trying to get to the sweetness inside. If there is any expert out there on the sweetness of a fruit, it's a bee.
A dark stem
When a watermelon is ready to pick, the stem will begin to naturally dry up and turn dark. If it is picked while the stem is still fresh and green, it will be bland. If the watermelon you are purchasing doesn't have a stem, just check the ends. One of them should have a dark spot where the stem was. If this spot is still light, leave it alone.
Because they are roughly 92% water, a good watermelon will be heavy for its size. A light-feeling melon means the insides have begun to dry out.
Of course, I couldn't finish this article without telling you how to thump a melon. A melon should be thumped on its underside, and have a deep, hollow sound. A melon that is either under-ripe or over-ripe will sound dull.
There ya go. Some of the best ways out there to find a sweet watermelon. If you're ever in doubt, simply make it a point to buy from a farmer's market. Farmers know their stuff, and won't harvest melons until they're ready. Ask the farmer to help you pick the best melon if you're still unsure.