Once upon a time, watermelon season began about the Fourth of July and lasted awhile longer into the summer. Even longer ago, this fruit’s season depended upon where you lived, when the growing season in your neck of the woods began, and how long it lasted. Today, the watermelons you purchase can come from almost anywhere in the world. If they’re not local, the chances are good that they come from California, or Florida, where growing seasons are long. Sometimes these melons may come from the south of the border, but the United States is a net exporter of watermelons and seldom needs to import them. In fact, the United States is the leading exporter of watermelons in the world. Canadians purchase by far the largest numbers of watermelons from the USA, followed by Japan, Mexico, France, and Russia.
Still, we see watermelons in grocery stores, fruit stands, and supermarkets mostly in late spring to early fall. For whatever reason, Christmas and watermelons don’t seem to belong on the same page. We generally picture a summer picnic as the time and place for eating this delicious treat, where you can sit on a bench in the shade and see how far you can spit the seeds. Watermelons are, and probably will always be, associated with summertime.
There Are Few Things Worse than Purchasing a Less than Ripe Watermelon
You can grow your own, but unless you live in an area that has a decently long growing season, you could end up with a crop of underripe melons that are never going to be a tasty treat no matter what you do. It’s not always easy to throw away a watermelon that is either underripe or overripe. Maybe it’s the size. Throwing out something that large seems like such a waste. One option of course is to buy a few slices, or a quarter or half of a melon. Then you can see what you’re getting. Buying a whole melon is more satisfying though. It’s practically a summer ritual.
When watermelon season does arrive, a couple of tips on what to look or feel for to make certain you get a ripe one may be in order. These tips generally apply irrespective of the variety. Whether you are purchasing one of the baby melons that, although ripe, aren’t much larger than a grapefruit or a whopping 20-pounder, you will look for the same things.
Color, Weight, and Sound Matter
Since watermelons grow on the ground and don’t hang on trees, they have a light spot where they have been resting on the ground. While the rest of the fruit’s skin will usually be dark green, this light spot is more cream colored. It’s definitely different from the rest of the melon. The longer the melon has been sitting on the ground and has been ripening, the darker this cream-colored spot will be. If the spot is very light, or almost white in color, pick another melon, as the fruit you’re holding probably is underripe.
Ripe watermelons also tend to be heavier for their size than those that are not quite ripe yet. If you choose four or five melons that look to be of about the same size and lift each one of them up, you may find that one seems a bit heavier than others. Pick that one. It’s most likely the ripest.
When people purchase fruits and vegetables, they often go by the feel as much as the look. Fruits and vegetables get pinched, poked at, squeezed, and thumped. A watermelon is large enough to be able to stand up against a good knock or thump without becoming bruised. Knock on the melon as you would a door. It shouldn’t feel the least bit soft and the sound the knocking makes should be sharp and not dull.
Where to Find Everything about Watermelons
There is actually a National Watermelon Promotion Board in existence, although most people don’t need much in the way of urging to purchase watermelons. The Board has a website (watermelon.org), where if you’re interested, you can find many things about watermelons. There’s everything from the nutritional content a typical watermelon provides to watermelon carving tips and ideas. The website also notes that the world record watermelon, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was grown in Tennessee and weighed 262 pounds. There are plenty of recipes listed. However, if you want to find some tips on how to grow them, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Maybe the sponsors of the Board would rather you purchase one than attempt to grow your own. There is also a list of watermelon festivals that are held throughout the country, most of which are held during the months of July and August. A few are held earlier; others are held later in the year. One such festival, the Summer Solstice Watermelon Run, is held in Long Beach, California, and features a 5-mile run and a shorter run and walk for kids. At the end of the races, there will be free watermelons for all participants. For most people however, just sitting in the shade, eating a big slice of watermelon, and spitting out the seeds is fun enough.