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How to pick a good melon for July 4th

My kids think I am so annoying when we go shopping at our local supermarket. But I can’t help myself. If I see a shopper who’s having a difficult time picking a good melon or pineapple, I feel compelled to give them the information that my farmer friends have given me.

So, how do you pick a good watermelon?

First of all, you will always get better-tasting watermelons when they are at the PEAK of the domestic season. And that’s right now and for the rest of the summer!

When choosing a watermelon:

  • First, pick it up and look at it. Is it firm and clean? It should not be spongy or have dents.
  • It should be perfectly shaped. If it’s a small personal-sized watermelon, it should be almost perfectly round. If it is an oblong watermelon (seedless or with seeds) you want it to be perfectly symmetrical. Any part of the melon that is not developed will not be filled out and plump.
  • Is there a “sugar spot”? That’s the yellow blemish on one side, where the melon laid on the ground. I have found that if the sugar spot is a darker yellow, the melon is usually sweeter. The melon was likely on the ground longer (and on the vine longer), so the flavors may be more fully developed.
  • Is it heavy for its size? That means it is not dried out.
  • Is any part of the stem still attached to the watermelon? If so, put it back. That means the melon was pulled off the vine, instead of it making that natural “break from the vine” when it’s ready.

When choosing a cantaloupe:

  • My first piece of advice is to purchase cantaloupes (and other musk melons) at room temperature, so you can smell them. I’ve always found that the scent gives me a better idea what it will taste like. And if a melon smells like you want it to taste, buy it!
  • Check the stem end. If there is any part of the stem still attached to the melon, I do not recommend buying it. A ripe melon will separate from the vine when tapped gently. If it is not ripe, part of the vine will remain attached.
  • Pick up the melon and make sure it is heavy for its size. While you’ve got it in your hands, inspect it to make sure there is no debris, sunken areas or soft spots.
  • The background color of the cantaloupe (under the netting) should be golden (not green).

I do have to confess that the Tuscan-style cantaloupes grown by Dulcinea have the very best, consistent flavor. But, you will have to choose them differently. They WILL have the stem attached and there will be dark green grooves (instead of a golden background), but their flavor almost always seems perfect!
So, enjoy your 4th of July weekend and be sure to serve fresh melon as a healthy snack!


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