There is nothing more disappointing in the garden than to finally pick that giant watermelon, only to slice into it and discover it’s not ripe yet! Check out this 3 minute video that will show you how to know when those watermelons and cantaloupes you grew are ready to be picked.
The best way to know when a watermelon is ripe is to check the tendril on the vine, opposite of where the watermelon is attached. Don’t confuse the tendril with leaves growing near the same spot. The tendril will be completely dried up, all the way to the vine. Another key thing to look for is to roll the melon over and see if the area where the melon was touching the ground is nice and light colored. It should be a noticeably different shade than the rest of the watermelon. Finally, you can do the thump test. This is the most subjective way to determine a melon and therefore the least accurate. The melon should make a nice, dull sound when thumped. You may try using some of the other indicators first to locate a melon that is nearly ripe. Then find a melon that is not ripe and try thumping the two until you can familiarize yourself with the exact sound.
Determining when a cantaloupe is ripe is much easier. Simply pick the melon up and give it a gentle tug. If it comes right off the vine (known as “slipping”), it’s ready. If it doesn’t come off very easy, it’s not. Don’t go by the color or the size – only how easy it comes off the vine. You should check back often if a melon looks like it’s close to being ripe. You will want to check at least every other day, or even every day at the peak of the season. Cantaloupes can go from unripe to ripe in a matter of hours in the hottest part of the summer. There shelf life will be greatly decreased if it sits out in the elements for too long after it’s ripe. That is one reason why home grown cantaloupes are so much better than store bought. Commercially grown cantaloupes must be picked before they are ripe so they have enough to time to be shipped to the packager, the distribution center and finally the grocery store. It’s simply not feasible for most commercial growers to allow the melons to vine ripen.