How to Pick a Juicy Ripe Watermelon- “Spank It!”
We have our tips on how to pick a sweet watermelon inspired from our road trip to Hermiston, Oregon. This region is known for their juicy, super sweet watermelons!
Lexi as a puppy. She was so cute!
The saying (and song), “You don’t know what you’ve got, ’til it’s gone” rings ever so true. Thinking about the produce from the area in Northeastern Oregon where I grew up, as kids, sure we thought the stuff was good. Who didn’t like the Walla Walla sweet onions over a regular ole yellow ones? Huckleberries were totally worth the trek into the mountains so we could pick our fingers and tongues purple. And if we saw a roadside stand with Hermiston watermelons, it was an instant stop.
But the true delight of how good these things really were escaped my inexperienced palate. However the years have aged and improved my appreciation. Anytime I go back home to visit my dad, if the season is on, we are going to stop, hunt down, and savor every last bite of the local produce.
Several years back was the first time in a very long time where I’ve visited Dad during the prime growing season. Diane and I road tripped up, fly fished and enjoying the small communities from Southern California to Northeastern Oregon. Just about an hour before Dad’s we saw the sign for Hermiston.
Hermiston at first glance doesn’t seem like much, just another farming town. But their watermelons are some of the best in the world. Not as big as the Texas melons, but the flavor and texture is incredible. We hunted down one of the key farms and stopped in to buy a few (or 9). As is the way of farmers and ranchers, you don’t just stop in, buy something, and go. You chat.
We ended up talking to man running the farming operations (the son-in-law to the original owner) and one bit of advice he gave us was invaluable towards finding a good melon. “Don’t just thump it. Hold it and thump it.” He explained how you can feel the vibrations in your bottom hand to determine a good watermelon. Brilliant tip on how to pick sweet watermelon.
After loading up and heading down the road, we knew what we had, and we weren’t going to let it go.
How to Pick Sweet Watermelon
1. Some people say to “thump it”, we say to “spank it”. The key is to hold the watermelon in your other hand when you spank it, so you can feel the vibrations through the watermelon. A tighter vibration should be reflective of a crisp texture while a mealy watermelon will have a much softer vibration.
2. Stemless is better, unless you grow it yourself and cut it when it’s fully ripe. If you bought it and it has a stem, it could mean that the watermelon has been picked too early, before it was ripe. Once a melon is picked from the field, it stops ripening. Without a stem, means that it was ripened on the vine on it’s own and the stem came off, leaving a slight “crater” on the end.
3. Heavy and Smooth Skin: the bugger should feel heavy, indicating lots of juicy goodness on the inside. And the skin should be a rich green color and smooth, meaning it had plenty of even and consistent sun bathing.
4. “Field Spot”- Yellow creamy color spot on the bottom means that it was resting on the ground and sweetened on the vine. This “field spot” should be a rich yellow color indicating it had plenty of time to lay in the field and sweeten in the sun. Avoid the green all over melons as they were usually picked too soon and didn’t get to ripen in the fields.
5. Buy from a Good Source: – Kind of a no-brainer, but not all watermelons are created equal. Better growers and growing areas will usually have the best stuff. Get to know your local growers (or what is in your local stores) to find out which ones you like the best.
And this article from New York Times talks about knuckle wraps. What? Let us know if you’ve knuckle wrapped and if it actually worked!
Any other tips we’re missing? Would love to learn more on how you pick your watermelons. This article was originally published in 2015 and re-published in 2021 with updated tips! And Lexi has grown so much more too!