By Zach Morton
for Farm Carolina
Thump, thump, thump. Chances are you have done this to a watermelon or cantaloupe at some point to tell if they are ripe enough to eat. Whether if it was because your grandmother told you, or because you thought it is fun, it stuck with you.
And while that may be acceptable in a grocery store, it is not the right practice when checking the ones growing in your garden.
“I’ve never heard of anything good coming from doing that,” said Cooperative agent Kevin Starr.
For those that are growing their own melons, here are the signs you should look for.
“Watermelons have a couple of different signs to let you know they are ripe. The main sign is to look at the tendril (the little pigtail vine growing on the watermelon vine). You want to look for the one that is about two to three inches away from the stem of the melon. If it has turned brown and looks like it has died, then it is ready to pick.”
“Also, look at the belly of the watermelon. The color should range between a cream to a yellowish color.”
There is also another method called plugging, which involves cutting out a small piece of the melon to see if it looks ripe. This practice, however, “is not a good idea because the melons have not ripe enough to pick, and may end up rotting on the vine.”
“Cantaloupe’s have what is called a slip vine. This means that when the fruit is ripe enough to pick, the stem will begin to loosen, or slip, from the fruit.” But make sure that it is not too easy.
“If the stem slips very easy from the fruit, it may be overripe. You want to make it is loosened, but that it doesn’t come off very easily.”
Color change is also important when checking cantaloupe.
“The melon will be a very dark green to start with, then gradually develop is characteristic netted, yellowish rind.”
Though not as popular as the other two, honeydew melon is grown by some gardeners. If you are a first time grower of these, they really only have one sign.
“The melon has a peach-like fuzz growing on the skin. This will go away as it gradually ripens. You want to harvest honeydew when it has a smooth, shiny rind.”
If you want to take the extra step to take care of your growing melons, Starr recommends putting mulch under them.
“It will help to protect them from being in direct contact with the ground, and may even help prevent them from rotting on the vine.”