The Q&A Archives: Melon Ripeness

Question: I am growing watermelons and cantaloupes for the first time in my garden. I don't know when the fruit is going to be ripe. How can I tell?

Answer: I wish plant breeders could come up with a way to make little pop-up indicators grow on fruits to tell us when the fruits are "done", similar to the pop-up gizmos on Thanksgiving turkeys! But, failing that, deciding when to harvest cantaloupe and watermelon comes with experience. The changes are subtle, so you'll need to watch the fruit as it progresses from nearly ripe to fully ripe. On cantaloupes, scent alone can be your guide. The stem of a vine-ripened fruit should break cleanly with no pressure at all on the stem. In fact, just picking up the fruit should disconnect it from the vine. If it's still firmly attached, leave it for a few days and try again. Watermelon will have a spot on the bottom surface called a ground spot. You'll note changes from pale straw color to gold or rich yellow. There's also a tendril on the stem between the vine and the fruit. When this turns brown, the melon is ripe. Enjoy your harvest!

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