Six Guidelines for Choosing the Perfect Watermelon

Using information gleaned from numerous conversations with produce workers, farmers, and my own personal experience, here are six pointers for selecting a ripe and sweet watermelon. The selection procedure can be simplified greatly if you know how to look for indicators like the field spot.

Bin Full of Varying Watermelons to Show How to Pick a Good Watermelon

I've never been good at going to the grocery store and picking out a perfect watermelon because I never knew what I was looking for.

Choose poorly, and you'll be stuck with a watermelon that weighs as much as a small car. And then you're stuck with the unappealing choice of forcing yourself to eat the watermelon or wasting it.

Some of it has gone to waste because my family doesn't care for the flavor, which reminds them of a crunchy watermelon rind cucumber.

Because I know how disheartening it is to get home, take the first bite of some sort of produce you buy, and find out it isn't good, today I want to help you pick a sweet, ripe watermelon.

The advice presented here is based on my own experience as well as that of other people in the produce industry and among farmers. This is a guide for selecting the finest watermelons.

First, locate the playing area.

Forget everything else; this is the single most important thing to look for in a good watermelon.

The ground spot, also known as a field spot, is a creamy area on the watermelon's exterior that indicates where the fruit was originally resting, either on the ground or the underside.  

The field spot, like the one on my watermelon, should be a yellowish creamy color.

A Watermelon With a Yellow Field Spot on Countertop

Field spots that are darker yellow in color have spent more time on the vine, where they develop their distinctive flavor. If the field spot is white or nonexistent, the melon is unripe.

Interestingly, a watermelon's appearance can change dramatically depending on which side you look at it from.

Watermelon Without a Field Spot on Countertop Gives Indication for How to Tell if a Watermelon is Ripe

It fits my mental image of a watermelon much better and is therefore preferable because of its aesthetics.

The best watermelons I've found often look hideous on one side (typically the underside where the melon rested on the ground) and perfect on the other. Nonetheless, you don't want every inch of it to be a perfect shade of green.

It doesn't matter if the watermelon has green stripes or not, or if most of its exterior is a solid shade of green. Whether or not a watermelon is ripe has nothing to do with the exterior pattern, which is instead indicative of the different types of watermelons sold at your grocery store.

Second, go with a nondescript facade.

Underripe watermelons have a shiny exterior, though this can be tricky if they've added wax and you can't really tell. Yes, this also holds true for honeydew melons. Don't pass up a watermelon because it has a boring exterior.

Advice No. 3: Knock Knuckles Upon It

The melon's skin should be so hard and firm that your knuckles bounce off it. If the flesh is soft, which it will be once it begins to spoil, you will hear a dull thud. Don't eat melons that have bruises.

You need a hollow, deep sound rather than a dull thud. Don't rely solely on this as an indicator because it requires extensive testing to determine what it sounds like.

It is also possible to use the very end of your thumb as a substitute for knocking on the door. It's preferable if there's almost no give when you push in.

4th Tip: Choose the Heaviest Possible Item for the Job

A Bin of Seedless Watermelons at Grocery Store with Varying Ripeness

Picking the heaviest-for-its-size fruit is a good rule of thumb for selecting almost any type of food, but when it comes to watermelons, it's especially important to select the sweetest ones. Because of this, the watermelon will be more hydrating and delicious.

Picking up multiple melons and weighing them against one another (or using a scale, if available) is a quick and simple way to verify this.

Above you see the entire 18-pound watermelon that inspired this post. It was heftier than the other melons of similar size. Value for money is increased as a result.

Fifthly, make sure your form is consistent.

Watermelons can range in shape from round to oval, and both are delicious. They simply exist in different forms. Avoid melons with strange bumps, as they may have been exposed to varying amounts of sun or water.

Sixth Piece of Advice: Focus on the Sweet Spots and Pollination Zones

Scarring and Pollination Points on Watermelon

Tom, the manager of produce at a major grocery chain, emailed me this recommendation many months ago. A sweet melon will have black spots on it where the sugar has leaked out. Sugar spots can easily be mistaken for dirt at first glance, but can only be identified as such if they resist being rubbed off.

Additionally, if you notice a series of dots along a line (as opposed to a scratch), these are pollination points, and the more of them, the better. In addition to the other suggestions, I now always look for these when I purchase a melon, and I've had excellent results. My sincere gratitude to you, Tom

Even though the melon in the picture above lacks the desirable creamy yellow spot (it's actually a little white), the sugar spots are promising. The watermelon was, in fact, quite delicious.

Unless it was at a farmers market, I've never seen a watermelon with the green stem still attached. Not that it's likely to sprout anyway, but I'm curious if the stem offers any clues as to when it's ready.

Check out my quick guide for How to Cut a Watermelon, which is the way I always cut watermelons to store in the fridge once you've selected a good one. How, however, to best serve this delectable fruit at social gatherings

Ripe Watermelon cut into Sticks on cutting Board

The sweetest part of a watermelon is always in the middle, so be sure to remove a lot of the rind before eating.

Cutting into sticks or cubes using this method is much simpler than using the more conventional triangle shape that incorporates the rind. My preferred cutting tool is the stick.

Ripe Watermelon cut into Cubes in Bowl

Use a sharp knife if you want the meat to stay intact and have a crisp texture.

Please click the image above to access my cutting tutorial. Be glad it's watermelon season!

Additional Advice and Frequently Asked Questions

Where can watermelons be kept for longer periods of time?

If the watermelon is cut, it needs to be refrigerated and can keep for up to 5 days in a sealed container. Because watermelons don't ripen any further when left out at room temperature, you can keep an uncut one on the counter for a few days. However, I recommend putting it in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

To what extent does watermelon freeze well?

However, once it's thawed, it's not something you'll want to eat again. Watermelon slushies and ice cubes for summer drinks are two of my favorite ways to use frozen watermelon.

But what if I don't like to waste the rinds?

It's a southern tradition to use the rind of the watermelon to make a delicious relish that's served alongside meat and other dishes. The truth is, I've never actually attempted to make it myself. Never had it outside of eating out

Did you like the dish I made? Whether you've tried this recipe or not, we'd appreciate a 5-star rating in the recipe card and/or a review in the comments section.

Post Your Opinion »

  • Look for a deep yellow color to locate the field. A bad sign is a white field spot or the absence of a field spot.
  • A watermelon with a shiny appearance is likely to be overripe, so choose one that is dull instead.  
  • If you knock on the melon with your knuckles, it should give a little bit, but your knuckles should bounce off. When the meat becomes soft, it has begun to spoil.
  • Watermelons are like any other type of fruit or vegetable; you want to choose the one that is the heaviest relative to its size. That means it's more hydrating than before.
  • Look for a Consistently Irregular Form Some watermelons are round, and some are oval, and both of those shapes are acceptable. However, bumps in an unusual pattern suggest that the melon was exposed to varying amounts of light and moisture during its growth.
  • Check for Sugar Spots and Pollination Points - Sweet melons can be identified by the presence of black spots, which are the result of sugar leaking out of the melon's cells. More pollination points are better, so keep an eye out for dots in a line (but not scratches)
  • See my post "How to Cut a Watermelon" for a simple method of slicing the fruit into cubes or sticks. Enjoy

Calories: 106 kcal , Carbohydrates: 27 g , Protein: 2 g , Fat: 1 g , Sodium: 4 mg , Fiber: 1 g , Sugar: 22 g

Nutrient content is approximatively calculated from a food database and is provided for educational purposes only.

June 2018 update adds new photos and hints to this post. It was first released in April 2011

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