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Watermelons, watermelons, and more watermelons!
July 9, 2010 5:46 AM   Subscribe

How to choose a watermelon? Do you go by shape, colour, or spotting? Thump or not? Red or yellow? Seeded or seedless? Square? Grilled? Champion watermelons. App for your iPhone? Are you still confused, watch this instructional video?
posted by Fizz (62 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I worked as a produce manager for several years during college and we had a lot of customers who swore by a weird one: "If you lay a piece of straw on it and it spins, it's a good one."
posted by Mick at 5:55 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forgot to add: Watermelon art.
posted by Fizz at 5:55 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"If you lay a piece of straw on it and it spins, it's a good one."

It's the hydromagnetic fields. Means they're ripe.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:57 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't like watermelons. I find them too watery and insufficiently melonious.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:57 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't like watermelons. I find them too watery and insufficiently melonious.

I feel sad for you. You have obviously not enjoyed a good piece of watermelon. My dad adds salt and pepper to his, not too big a fan of this but I know many people who do this.
posted by Fizz at 6:01 AM on July 9, 2010


Thump.

If it sounds too hollow or too solid, you don't want it. You have to thump several to get the comparison. Too hollow usually means there's less dense material (mealy meat) and too solid means it's too watery (which is to say so diluted that it's not sweet enough). And almost never use the outer rind to determine the quality. Great melons sometimes look ugly.

My wife just remarked last night that I'm in charge of picking out watermelons because I am consistent in my selection of tasty melons. last night's was deep red and had a thinner white line. Sweet, juicy, and naturally delicious.

I also see no point to salting or peppering the melon. The melon, if sufficiently good, needs no embellishment or seasoning (much like a quality steak -- you put A1 on that quality steak, I will thump you like a watermelon!). And I tend to eat mine in very large slices, ice cold, with a large spoon.
posted by grubi at 6:08 AM on July 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


(sorry, I really do love watermelons and take this sort of thing quite seriously.)
posted by grubi at 6:08 AM on July 9, 2010


I prefer this instructional video.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 6:11 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am making watermelon feta salad for a BBQ this weekend. I can't wait! So good.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:15 AM on July 9, 2010


too solid means it's too watery (which is to say so diluted that it's not sweet enough)

Too solid means too -ripe, past the sell date. But I see you know your stuff and love a good watermelon. Bless you, grubi.
posted by humannaire at 6:17 AM on July 9, 2010


So far I am alone in this and seeking a support group, but for me, the best part of watermelon is the area right before the rind. As it gets toward the edges, it has a more satisfying crunch and isn't overly sweet. On the plus side, it means I can finish everyone else's slices, making me something of a watermelon bottom feeder.
posted by condour75 at 6:20 AM on July 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I purchose only pre-cut watermelons (quartered usually, but sometimes halved), so identifying the good ones is easy.
posted by DU at 6:23 AM on July 9, 2010


"Purchose" and "purchoose" need to be added to the dictionary stat.
posted by DU at 6:24 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I purchose only pre-cut watermelons (quartered usually, but sometimes halved), so identifying the good ones is easy.

Doesn't that get expensive? Also, where's the risk, the joy of discovering that you yourself picked the correct watermelon. "Purchosen" watermelon....it's too safe, there's no real living in this. Take a chance!
posted by Fizz at 6:27 AM on July 9, 2010


I haven't really compared whole vs cut watermelon prices, but a quarter watermelon lasts almost a week at my house and costs like $1.50, so no.
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on July 9, 2010


a quarter watermelon lasts almost a week at my house

I must confess to having three this week alone. My innards feel clean, let me tell you.
posted by sourwookie at 6:40 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


(and I cut the whole melon up into cubes in one go, stash it in giant Tupperware, so bite size pieces are always at the ready)
posted by sourwookie at 6:41 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I stated in the produce-labelling thread, watermelons are the bane of my fruit-shopping experience, because I seem to need to go through a half dozen to find one that is really good (in terms of sweetness). May be what we get shipped up here is a factor, though.

My dad adds salt and pepper to his, not too big a fan of this but I know many people who do this.

Heh. When I was teaching in Japan, we did a class on cultural differences in taste, and I noted that I hadn't realized that Japanese people salted their watermelon until I was over at Ito-sensei's house (he told me it was a Japanese thing). The students looked at me strangely. Finally, the Japanese teacher asked: "Ito-sensei salts his watermelon?" I nodded. "That's not Japanese people. I think that's just Ito-sensei."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:45 AM on July 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


I have an English friend who swore that the natural state of watermelons was triangular and wrapped in plastic. Upon introduction to watermelon in it's native state, he was quite distressed, and went off with the watermelon and a small quantity of exposives.

This is where he discovered the tensile strength of a watermelon rind, combined with the incompressibility of watermelon.

And then the seeds rained down.
posted by eriko at 6:46 AM on July 9, 2010


Cracked black pepper on rockmelon is delicious, so I can sort of see the salt and pepper watermelon thing.
posted by Wolof at 6:53 AM on July 9, 2010


Heh. When I was teaching in Japan, we did a class on cultural differences in taste, and I noted that I hadn't realized that Japanese people salted their watermelon until I was over at Ito-sensei's house (he told me it was a Japanese thing). The students looked at me strangely. Finally, the Japanese teacher asked: "Ito-sensei salts his watermelon?" I nodded. "That's not Japanese people. I think that's just Ito-sensei."

My family is Asian-Indian, so it might be something with Asians. Because my dad also adds salt and pepper to his Papaya and sometimes even Mango.
posted by Fizz at 7:00 AM on July 9, 2010


I am making watermelon feta salad for a BBQ this weekend. I can't wait! So good.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:15 AM on July 9 [+] [!]


Recipe please!
posted by govtdrone at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2010


I am making watermelon feta salad

That sounds delicious. I need to pick up a watermelon next time I'm at the store; I love 'em but I never think to get one.
posted by kryptondog at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2010


Forget thumping and spinning straws. Find a melon that is heavy for its size - it will be juicy and delicious, I (almost) guarantee it.
posted by jenny76 at 7:09 AM on July 9, 2010


Forget thumping and spinning straws. Find a melon that is heavy for its size - it will be juicy and delicious, I (almost) guarantee it.

Blasphemy.
posted by grubi at 7:15 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mr. Arkham is the master melon-selector* in our household. Corn, too. He's from the Midwest so I figure he's closer to the land or something.

* OK that came out way dirtier than I thought it would.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:16 AM on July 9, 2010


My dad salts his watermelon and his cucumber prodigiously. He states that if he doesn't salt "They keep repeating on me."

Meaning, if he doesn't salt them, he gets the burps.

I do not know if this is science or mind over matter. (and a lightly salted watermelon doesn't taste salty---it tastes much more sweet.)
posted by TomMelee at 7:17 AM on July 9, 2010


But I see you know your stuff and love a good watermelon. Bless you, grubi.

Right back atcha. It's easily my favorite melon and probably my second-most favorite fruit (right behind Granny Smith apples), so I try to be logical about choosing the right one. Now, my method isn't foolproof (what method is?), but I believe all of life is about creating a great experience and part of that is sweet, juicy watermelon.
posted by grubi at 7:19 AM on July 9, 2010


I also see no point to salting or peppering the melon. The melon, if sufficiently good, needs no embellishment or seasoning (much like a quality steak -- you put A1 on that quality steak, I will thump you like a watermelon!).

Right, but you put salt and pepper on the steak, yes? Salt is delicious on watermelon.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:30 AM on July 9, 2010


In a blended response to two recently active threads, I only belatedly discovered the difference between two cultivars of watermelon, the more common elongated kind (Crimson Sweet?), and the smaller, darker-skinned, round type (Sugar Baby? though it might be a local variety such as Cinquantina). Unsolveable disputes about regional nomenclature aside, here in Italy I would differentiate them as anguria for the former, and cocomero for the latter. The second type is harder to come by here (not sure about stateside) but the ripe one I had recently was memorable for its thin rind - less useless white stuff - and rich taste.

Oh, and: here's the searchable European Central Cucurbits Database's Citrullus lanatus search form. (32 cultivars are photo-ID'ed.)
posted by progosk at 7:32 AM on July 9, 2010


I got a bunch of them growing out back.
what ya gotta do is look at the tendril, because vines got tendrils, right where the stem of the melon branches off from the main vine and when that one tendril dries up and goes black it should be a good melon.
Sometimes you might have cucumber beetles killing off the vine and when that happens the tendril will dry up before the melon is ripe but I cannot help that, life is not fair and you better learn that now.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:42 AM on July 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Right, but you put salt and pepper on the steak, yes?

Well, YEAH. I mean, I'm not a monster.
posted by grubi at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Picking one that seems heavy for it's size seems to work for us. I pick it up and if it seems heavier than I expected based on it's physical size, I go with it.
posted by COD at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2010


In Trinidad we eat something called chow, which is (broadly defined) raw fruit, salted. It should be sour, and therefore either green (mango, Trinidad plum, sour cherry, pommecythere, starfruit) or seasoned with lime (pineapple). I say both. Most people also season with black pepper, garlic, bird pepper, chadon beni, whatever. That, to me, is excessive. My mango chow recipe for instance is just two green mangoes and one ripeish mango, cut up into pieces; the juice of four to six limes; salt to taste. Perhaps a very little bit of some kind of pepper sauce. Combine.

I have had watermelon chow but it was really rather desperate measures. What is ideal is something naturally sour, firm and nearly imperceptibly fibrous - like the best varieties of mango. At the end of the day though, fruit + salt = <3 and let's all just join hands and know it.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


The grocery store down the street had seedless watermelon for 27 cents a pound a week or two ago, so we bought one. It was the best watermelon I've ever had- we ate that sucker in less than 3 days, all 20 lbs of it. We liked it so much we bought another one. And wouldn't you know, that 2nd watermelon was the worst watermelon I've ever had- so dry it had split in the middle, veiny, bleeeech.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a pic of the NC Watermelon queen hocking one in the seed spitting contest of '08. She didn't win.

You can also get a watermelon license plate in NC.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as seasoning fruit goes, there is an Indian snack plate that my mother has given us for years and years:

Fruit Chaat:

Any fruit combinations of choice, like apples, pears, pomegranate, firm banana, pineapple, peach, pear, guava etc. Take roughly 1 1/2 fruit per person. You can use berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
Juice of 1 lime or lemon. Indian lemon is like a lime in UK. Use less or more, as per your taste.
Chat/Chaat Masala*, 1 tsp. for 4 pieces of fruit like apples/pears. Adjust to taste.
If you do not have chaat masala, use freshly ground black peppers and a little Garam Masala
Salt to taste, if you don't already have it in chat masala. Use kala namak (black salt) if you have it.

*Chaat masala’ is a mix of hot and tangy spice that is used to spice up many snacks, salads, fruit salads, fruit juices, and some curries. Just sprinkle 1-2 tsp. on your fruit/vegetable salad, squeeze a little lemon juice/good vinegar like balsamic vinegar, mix thoroughly and enjoy! You can make this masala in advance and store it in a jar. Most people buy it ready made these days, sold in packets. Ready made one is quite good and very often used by professional chefs.
posted by Fizz at 8:16 AM on July 9, 2010


Thump.

It is the true test, the crucible of determing a sweet, red, ripe melon vs a dry, yellowish-pink disaster.

grubi is the man.
posted by misha at 8:26 AM on July 9, 2010


I am from Russia and only recently have had the opportunity to try a the Russian national delicacy of pickled watermelon. It is amazing. Just plainly amazing. Just the right amounts of sweet and sour, if made correctly, and a nice crunchy, pickly rind (you eat the rind) to go with the lightness of the flesh.

Seriously, if you're a fan of pickles/salt and you ever get a chance to try pickled watermelon, take it.
posted by griphus at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2010


I was secretly hoping this watermelon thread would grow past a mere 10 comments or so (because those threads always seem so sad and neglected). And looky here! Watermelons on the brain! Forty comments!
posted by grubi at 8:37 AM on July 9, 2010


It's funny how this question was foremost on my mind this morning. How to choose a watermelon?
posted by theholotrope at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2010


How to: Make a Drunk Watermelon.
posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on July 9, 2010


I was over at the neighborhood taco truck getting lunch the other day when a gentleman who'd obviously spent the morning working outside came up, grabbed a bag of cut watermelon from the ice tray, poured about a cup of hot sauce in the bag, shook it up, and then proceeded to eat it with great enjoyment. I'll have to try that.
posted by Runes at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2010


I was over at the neighborhood taco truck getting lunch the other day when a gentleman who'd obviously spent the morning working outside came up, grabbed a bag of cut watermelon from the ice tray, poured about a cup of hot sauce in the bag, shook it up, and then proceeded to eat it with great enjoyment. I'll have to try that.

Now that sounds delicious!!!
posted by Fizz at 9:08 AM on July 9, 2010


Pickled watermelon is delicious! If you don't want to waste a melon trying this, eat it fresh and just pickle the rinds. (Also Russian.)
posted by domnit at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2010


Being Mexican, I was introduced to the only true way of eating watermelons, which is very similar to the Indian way described above (there are many culinary similarities between India and Mexico): Cubed watermelon with lime juice, salt, and roasted chile powder (which contains several varieties of chile and spices and is sweet and tangy like chaat masala). You can mix in mango (slightly green and firm or overripe) and other fruits.

During the recent Fillmore Jazz Festival they had a chef from a fancy restaurant demonstrating how to make a watermelon, feta and chile salad. I have to try it ASAP. I just have to wait for the old man with his pickup loaded with watermelons to park outside the Glad Tidings church. I let him do the picking and he has been spot on so far.
posted by dirty lies at 9:11 AM on July 9, 2010


Pickled watermelon is delicious! If you don't want to waste a melon trying this, eat it fresh and just pickle the rinds. (Also Russian.)

They sound like nice complementary snacks! A little sweet, a little salty, a little sweet, a little salty... back and forth munching away.

Great. Now I'm hungry.
posted by grubi at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2010


I made this awesome t-rex!
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:20 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


RARR
posted by grubi at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2010


From the Thump link: Spitting seeds is about more than bragging rights. "Possibly for a world-record spit. Currently that spit in Luling is 68 feet and 9 1/8 inches," he said. Anyone able to break the world record can walk away $1,000.

Not only is that farther than I can imagine anyone spitting a watermelon seed (~21 meters!?!) that's a lot more money than I can imagine anyone winning for spitting a watermelon seed.

Unless it's a grand of credit at the watermelon store, I guess, which would make it great product promotion. I dream of competing fruit cartels, vying for fruity supremacy, one small town festival at a time...
posted by Chichibio at 9:50 AM on July 9, 2010


I get looked at weird for the salt and pepper and lime juice - I am so glad to hear I'm not alone. The watermelons have been unusually good this year; I've been kind of wondering what that's all about.

Here's my watermelon feta salad recipe - I based it on one I ate at a party though and it is quite possible I'm missing some secret ingredient. Still it is highly delicious.

In a bowl (well, obviously - you cannot just do this on the counter) mix up together:
cut up watermelon
feta cheese
lime juice
salt and pepper
lots and lots of cut up mint leaves
a tiny bit of olive oil

Yum! Strange enough where if you bring it to a party people will initially give you the hairy eyeball but then after tasting it they'll be all excited and thrilled and you will gain the reputation of being a Daring International Cook.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I dream of fruit cartels, vying for fruity supremacy, one small town festival at a time..."

You mean like this: Hummus War! Record four ton Israeli dip wins latest battle in Hummus Wars!
posted by Fizz at 10:05 AM on July 9, 2010


My mom grew up on an island. In summer, her family would have picnics on the beach, and they usually brought along a watermelon. She and her sister would take wedges of melon, run out to the water and dip them in the surf, thus salting the fruit.

I always thought that sounded pretty neat, even though I personally think putting salt on any type of melon is heresy.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:19 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't buy one at a supermarket. They're always disappointing, either not sweet, too dry, or too mushy. I bought one at a farmer's market last week for $5 and it was seriously the sweetest, juiciest, most amazing watermelon I've ever eaten. Out of this world.
posted by blucevalo at 11:23 AM on July 9, 2010


Here's my watermelon feta salad recipe.

I got into pickled feta cheese as a kid because my mom would always eat it with watermelon. I totally forgot about that and can't wait to try it again.
posted by griphus at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2010


Don't buy one at a supermarket. They're always disappointing, either not sweet, too dry, or too mushy.

Not in North Florida, where Publix appears to purchase the melons from local growers. As long as I employ my method, every grocery store watermelon I've gotten is as juicy, sweet, and sometimes ugly (I love the lack of uniformity) as the ones from the side-of-the-road vendors.

I understand your sentiment, but I respectfully disagree.
posted by grubi at 11:48 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've heard that if you can find one that's not seedless, it's much less likely to go mushy. Can anyone confirm or deny? Watermelon is one of my favorite fruits, but I hate mushy watermelons.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2010


i look around the produce department for a willing young child, preferably a girl and ask if she would pick out a good melon for me. this has never failed.
posted by kitchenrat at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2010


I remember the seeds raining down that eriko mentions -- after the 'rain' ended, DaughterR picked up a double handful of rind bits, none of which was over a half inch in any dimension. A couple of other kids there did the same.

I generally choose watermelons on the basis of density and thumpyness. (I'm a farm kid, and it's hard to describe -- I pick one up and I just *know*.) I only buy seedless melons when I can't find seeded ones -- we find the flavor is much better in seeded melons. And, yes, seeded melons are less likely to be mushy.

I don't buy melons shipped in from out of state (well, maybe northern Ohio, as that's 40 miles away) as melons intended for shipping long distance tend to be picked before they're fully ripe. It's still too early for local melons around here, although I might be able to find someone who started theirs in a greenhouse. Ours have just started forming (late start due to MrR being slow with the garden + rainrainrainrain in May).
posted by jlkr at 6:13 PM on July 9, 2010


Pat them with an open soft palm, if they reverberate it means they are juicy and solid enough to set up a vibration. If they are hollow sounding they are dry, if they are too dense to reverberate, they are green. Ummmm...watermelon.
posted by Oyéah at 7:47 PM on July 9, 2010


I used to do the thump test with varying results. Honestly, in my experience, the best indicator of a good watermelon is a yellow area on the rind where it sat on the ground. It can be a whitish area, but it's got to have a yellow tinge. No yellow, no purchase.
posted by pantload at 9:25 PM on July 9, 2010


My watermelon feta salad is essentially the same as mygothlaudry's, but I add diced cucumber and sometimes diced tomato. It's sort of a greek-ish salad, but with watermelon and mint.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:18 AM on July 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


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