There was a time when I wasn’t a watermelon fan. As a kid, I had tried them. But as is usual for kids, the one time I had one that wasn’t ripe ruined me, and I wasn’t reformed until I was in my 30s.
But all it took was one taste of a perfectly ripened, ice-cold Sugar Baby watermelon and my transformation into a watermelon lover was complete. The deliciousness I had missed out on for all those years made me wonder: How do you pick the “perfect” watermelon?
I am a firm believer in “It never hurts to ask,” so I asked the foremost authority on watermelon ripeness available — an old farmer at the local farmer’s market. He gave me a few simple things to look for:
- The “belly,” the part that lays on the ground when it is growing, should be yellow. The more yellow, the better the flavor.
- The more webbing — the thick brown marking that spreads out across the melon and looks like spiderwebs — the better. This is a direct result of bees pollinating the watermelon in its early development. More webbing equals more pollination, making a sweeter fruit.
- Black spots, which the webbing sometimes has in it, are concentrated sugar seeping out of the fruit. Yum!
- Sound, which is a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe I’m watermelon tone deaf, but the theory goes that the higher-pitched the sound when thumped, the more dense and field-ripened the watermelon is — like the way a glass changes tone, depending on how full it is, when thumped.
- Weight — the watermelon should seem heavy for its size.
Armed with this information, I have enjoyed watermelon season, or as some call it — summer — ever since.