How to Choose a Ripe Melon

There isn't one universal rule when it comes to picking melons; it depends on the kind you're buying. Here are the signs to look for.

cut melon
Photo: Bryan Gardner

Want to increase your odds of coming home from the market with the sweetest, juiciest fruit in the bin? There isn't one universal rule when it comes to picking melons; it depends on the kind you're buying. Here, we share the experts' guidelines to remember when shopping for three of the most popular melons of summer.


Picnics, barbeques, and other summer gatherings don't feel complete without a platter of watermelon wedges, and from May to September, they're ubiquitous at supermarkets and farmers' markets alike. To check for ripeness, pick the watermelon up (brace yourself: it could weigh 20 pounds!). At 92 percent water, a watermelon should be very heavy for its size. Turn it over and look for a ground spot, or a yellow belly. It should be a creamy, buttery yellow. This is where the watermelon sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. Too white? Likely the watermelon is underripe and may not have much flavor, perhaps tasting more like its cousin the cucumber. Screaming yellow? It could be overripe, which means the texture of the fruit inside is mushy or even grainy.

halved melon
Bryan Gardner


With their mild, honey-like flavor, these melons are delicious on their own, blended into smoothies or added to a salad. To find a ripe honeydew, first search for a nicely spherical, symmetrical melon. The exterior should be a dull, pale yellow-if you see green, that's a red flag, signaling under-ripeness. As with watermelon (and many other fruits), it should feel heavy for its size (most weigh between four and eight pounds). Take a sniff near the stem end; if you get a sweet and fragrant aroma, it's probably going to be a winner.

cut melon
Bryan Gardner


Equally at home with salty prosciutto or sweet berries, cantaloupe is also delightful cut into chunks and eaten alone. When you're shopping for one of these melons, look at the stem end first. You shouldn't see the stem itself-and if it is there, that means the melon was picked before maturing. That end of the cantaloupe may have a slight indent, which is fine; it's actually an indicator that the fruit came away from the vine easily, when it was ready. Hold the melon near your nose and breathe in; it should smell sweet.

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