How to Choose the ripest watermelon

Summer is finally in full swing!  We all have things that remind us of summer.  For me, one of them is watermelon.   On my first trip to Greece, after a long overnight boat ride followed by a crazy taxi cab ride through Athens, we ended up at the home of my friend Angela’s grandfather. Papou welcomed us and then gave us the sweetest, juiciest watermelon as an afternoon snack and ever since then, watermelon reminds me not only of summer, but of Greece.

I’m now married to a Greek and today is our son Elias’ name day.  Of course, a summer (and Greek!) celebration wouldn’t be complete without a delicious watermelon.  So this morning I set out to find the best and ripest sweet giants… and it worked!

How to tips for choosing the ripest watermelon:

1.  Size.  Unless the melon is one of the new tiny varieties that are bred to be about the size of a cantaloupe, the name of the game here is the bigger the better.  If the melon is large, that means it was left on the vine long enough to ripen.

2.  Shape. Find one that is fairly symmetrical in sahpe

3.  Color is important.  start by looking at the “belly spot,” the area of discoloration on the bottom where the fruit was resting on the soil.  If it’s light green, leave it – it’s not ripe.  But if it’s a creamy yellow, you’ve probably got a good one.  Next, check the stripes.  If a watermelon’s stripes really stand out, chancers are it’s not yet ripe.  The color should be a relatively uniform green and only a subtle contrast with the stripes.

4.  Flaws.  Be sure your choice has no bruises, cracks, or soft spots.  Those types of flaws aren’t just ugly, they actually affect the taste, as they’re signs of either  rough handling, which may have spoiled the fruit, or of over-ripeness.

5. Weight.  Pick up your new darling.  A watermelon is 90 percent water which means it should feel even heavier than you expect it to.  A heavy melon means a juicy melon, but rock it a little and listen for any sloshing – that’s a definite indicator of a fruit past its prime.

6. Sound.  The last test is the thumping test.  Some say to use your index and middle fingers pressed together, some the palm of your hand.  Everyone agrees the watermelon should give off a hollow sound when its side is tapped.  If you hear a solid thud or a high-pitched tone, put it back.

Last trick (some people swear by this method!):  Take a long, straight piece of dry grass and set it crosswise on the melon.  If the fruit is ripe, they say, the grass will spin and align itself lengthwise with the fruit.  It doesn’t do us city dwellers much good, but if you thump, check the belly spot and cradle odds are you’ll get a good one!

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