How to Select and Store Watermelon

Does thumping work to choose a fresh watermelon?

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Nothing says summer like a juicy piece of watermelon. And we all know how disappointing it can be to bring home a whole watermelon, cut it into pieces, and discover it is dry and mealy. Here are some tips to picking a watermelon that is refreshing and delicious.

Choosing a Fresh Watermelon 

Watermelon season runs from May to September, but its peak is mid-June to late August. They are sold whole, halved and quartered, and cubed.

Common types of watermelon include seedless, picnic, icebox, and yellow/orange fleshed. Each type also has multiple varieties. Seedless watermelons will be void of the dark black seeds but will have small white underdeveloped seeds that are fine to eat. Picnic watermelons are large, round or oblong, with green rind and red flesh. The icebox is like a personal-size watermelon, small and round and perfect for one person or a small family. The yellow/orange watermelons have yellow-orange flesh and can have seeds or be seedless.

No matter which type you choose, look for skin that is dull and slightly waxy (although many watermelons are waxed to add shine), yielding only slightly to pressure. The stem should be attached, brownish in color and dry. The round or oblong melon should be symmetrical without any flat sides, feeling heavy for its size. 

Some experts believe that making sure the underside where it lies on the ground is a pale yellow color, not white or light green, is a sure sign of ripeness.

But others use the "thumping method" with great success. Here's how to do it: Flick your middle finger off your thumb against the melon. You want to hear a deep, rich thudding sound. If there is no thudding sound, the watermelon is not ripe.

If buying a cut watermelon, look for bright red flesh with mature dark brown or black seeds.

Unless it is a seedless variety, an abundance of white seeds means it was picked before its prime. Avoid melons with white streaks through the flesh and pieces where the flesh is mealy, dry, cracked and/or separating from the seeds.

Storing Watermelon

Watermelons are picked when they are ripe so they will not continue to ripen and soften much at room temperature; melons picked before their prime will never develop full flavor. Whole watermelon should be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Cut watermelon should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated and used within three to five days. You can also freeze cut watermelon, but the texture will be soft when thawed (which is fine for cold soups and smoothies).

More About Watermelon

You've selected a beautiful, ripe watermelon - now what? Learn more about watermelon and some fun ways to use it with these resources:

Watermelon Varieties and Types
Watermelon History
How to Make a Watermelon Basket