How to Pick Perfectly Ripe Watermelons!

How to tell if your watermelon is ripe in 5 seconds! Knowing what to look for when picking a watermelon is crucial if you want a sweet, juicy fruit that's bursting with flavor! There are quite a few tips out there. But my number one, most important gauge for ripeness is demonstrated in this video. When you buy watermelons from the store or farmer's market you are relying on others to decide when a watermelon should be picked. And too many times... that results in a bland tasteless fruit. 🤢 Yuk!

That's why growing your own watermelons in the garden is so much better! You have complete control over when your fruits are harvested, allowing them to be properly ripened on the vine. And when the watermelon is still connected to the plant, you can monitor the most crucial factors for ensuring a successfully ripened fruit.

Video: When to Pick Perfectly Ripe Watermelons
Grown in the Garden
-Best Time to Harvest Every Time!

Growing your own watermelons gives you complete control over when your fruits are harvested!

How to pick ripe watermelons from the store:

When buying watermelons at a market, you hope that the grower had picked the melon at just the right time. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. It's not uncommon to take home an under-ripe melon which tastes bland and flavorless. So you might try extra hard to grab a melon that's completely ripe. But you're stuck using some rather subjective methods for determining ripeness. Some of the tips about watermelon selection are quite misleading.

Sweet Ripe Watermelon Sliced & Cut From Rind on Kitchen Table
When you know what to look for, your watermelon can be a ripe, ultra sweet treat for the whole family!
    Here are a few common tips for how to pick a ripe watermelon:

  • STEM COLOR: Some people believe that the stem color can tell you if a watermelon is ripe. If the attachment point on the melon is dry and brown, this supposedly means the fruit is ripe. Don't go by this. Perfectly ripe watermelons can still have a beautifully bright green attachment point!

    The coloration of the stem point can indicate the condition of the plant vine when the melon was picked. If a farmer had picked the watermelon while the plant vine was still healthy, the attachment point will still be vibrant green. On the other hand, the spot will be dried out and brown if the vine has died. Why did the entire vine die? Was it because the melon had perfectly ripened? NO. If a watermelon plant is free of pests and diseases, it can still maintain green healthy vines, even though the fruit itself is completely ripe. On the other hand, a dried out stem is does NOT guarantee that the melon had time to fully ripen before getting cut off from the plant.
  • Watermelon Ripened in Garden Still Has Green Stem Attachment Point
    This sweet watermelon was perfectly ripe even though the attachment point at the stem was still bright green!
    Completely Ripened Watermelon with Green Stem Attachment Point
    Different watermelon, same story. If had I waited for the stem to turn brown, it would have gotten over-ripe.
  • THUMP: People love to tap and thump watermelons, listening for a dull sound. If you hear a dull thud when you tap the fruit, this might be a way to know that it's ripe. It's funny because some people claim that if the thump sounds more "hollow," then the fruit is unripe. Yet, plenty of people will describe the ripe melons as having a "hollow" sound. It's the "metallic" sound that you're supposed to avoid... Clearly, this tip is highly subjective and not very reliable. After all, some varieties don't make a soft "hollow" sound when knocked, even though they're ripe.

  • HEFT: This method is very limited in its usefulness. If you have a stack of similarly sized watermelons, you can lift each and try to look for ones that feel heavier for their size. Having a scale would be a much more objective way to pick watermelons that are denser and full of juicy goodness.

  • WATERMELON SKIN COLOR / TEXTURE: The darkness or brightness of a fruit does not help much with determining ripeness. Different varieties will have different colors. And foliage cover can cause a fruit to be lighter in color. Watermelons with full sun exposure may be more tanned, but that doesn't mean they are more or less ripe. Some people look at the sheen of the skin. A young, immature watermelon often starts out looking glossy. As it ripens, it starts to look less shiny and more dull. This can be a sign of ripeness. Be aware though that this indicator partially depends on the variety of watermelon. Another thing you can try is to examine the texture of the skin. It may start to feel rough as the fruit ripens. And you should not be able to easily dent the skin with your fingernail.

  • FIELD SPOT / GROUND SPOT: This method is one of the most popular ways for gaging ripeness. Watermelons grown in the field will have a pale spot on the underside. This area was shaded from sunlight and never produced pigment in response. On a young, immature watermelon, that field spot will be light green or bright white. But as the fruit ripens, the spot darkens a little into a creamy yellow color. So look for darker spots to find riper, sweeter watermelons.
    Yellow Field or Ground Spot on Ripe Baby Watermelon
    If your watermelon has a field spot, the color is a fairly reliable indicator of ripeness.
    But what if there is no field spot on the watermelon??? That doesn't mean the watermelon isn't ripe. That is a complete misconception. The ground spot on a watermelon doesn't magically appear as the fruit ripens. That spot simply indicates that the fruit received sunlight from all angles. Perhaps the fruit wasn't sunken down into the ground as it was growing. If the melon is a smaller variety, without any flat spot, the sunlight can more easily reach all sides of it, resulting in pigment production. The watermelon in my video is a perfect example of that! See if you can figure out why...

    So a lack of a field spot doesn't mean under-ripeness. However, if there IS a field spot, look for a deeper yellow hue. Avoid melons with a bright white spot.
Watermelon Fruit Ripens on Vine While Growing Off of the Ground
If you can support them, it's possible to grow watermelons on a trellis. Don't expect to find a ground spot!

Do watermelons slip off of the vine?

Some growers wonder if a watermelon should come loose on its own. There's a common misconception that a ripe watermelon should be able to effortlessly slip right off the vine where it attaches to the plant. Melons that do this are referred to as "full slip." At most, it may take a gentle nudge with your thumb and the melon will detach. That's true with cantaloupes or muskmelons, but NOT watermelons. There are a variety of melon types. Some types like Anasas and Galia will slip easily. Other melons, including Crenshaw and Muskmelon, are "forced" slip. That means they require a significant amount of pressure before they will separate from the vine. Some melons like Canary and Honeydew simply need to be cut.

And this certainly applies to watermelons. Watermelons do not reach a state of "full slip." It's very common for a watermelon fruit to stay firmly attached to the plant vine even once it is fully ripe. The vine often remains firm and green. If you give it a firm tug, it's possible that you can get the melon to come free. But this is not always the case. Meanwhile, if the watermelon remains attached too long, it will overripen. So you should never use this method to determine if a watermelon is ripe.

Ripe Watermelon with a Green Colored Stem & Attachment Point
Watermelons are commonly cut from the vine. Although the stems are green and do not slip, the fruit is very ripe!

That's why you absolutely cannot rely on the stem or attachment point color to determine ripeness. Whether the stem is attached or detached makes no difference. And if the remaining stem or attachment point appears dry and brown, this merely indicates that the vine had withered due to disease or other stresses. Unfortunately, a dried vine doesn't mean that a melon has completely ripened. Perhaps the mother plant had died in the field, but that won't tell you anything about the ripeness of its melons.

Do watermelons ripen off the vine?

Some fruits like bananas and tomatoes will happily continue to ripen even if picked green. But the same cannot be said for watermelons. Watermelons only ripen while they are attached to the actively growing plant vine. Once they are disconnected from the vine, watermelons do not continue to ripen.

So if you want a fully ripe, perfectly sweet watermelon, you need to pick the fruit when it is at its peak ripeness. To further complicate things, if the watermelons remains connected to the plant after reaching ripeness, it will begin to overripen. And overripe watermelon does not taste so good. The texture is completely off. So as a gardener, you need to know exactly what to look for. Fortunately, the trick to picking a perfectly ripe watermelon is very simple!

How to tell home grown watermelons are ripe:

Common questions folks have when growing watermelon is "When do I harvest my watermelon?" It's all about the tendril baby! A quick reliable way to tell if your watermelon is ripe. When you grow your own fruits and veggies you can determine exactly when to harvest. And with watermelons, that means you have direct access to the best determinant of ripeness: The curly tendril or pigtail opposite of where the fruit is attached to the vine will let you know.

If it's green, leave it be. When the fruit is still developing and ripening, the tendril will be bright green, matching the color of the rest of the vine. But once the fruit has matured, that tendril starts to turn brown and dry out. I always wait until the tendril is completely brown and dry. Then it's good to go! 😍 I might even wait a few additional days just to be sure. In fact, the variety "Sugar Baby" requires an extra 10 days from the point that the tendril turns brown before picking. Although this is an exception to the rule, you still need to watch that tendril to know!