Picking melons can be tricky sometimes. Here is a guide to picking the perfect melon every time. How to harvest watermelon or cantaloupe from the garden!
August is our favorite month in the garden.
Why? Because here in Utah that means it’s time for the melons to be ready!! Since we started growing our own melons several years ago we have decided there is nothing better than homegrown vine-ripened melons.
We wait all year for this 4 week period where we can snack on melons any time we want. We love homegrown melons so much that the grocery store melons no longer appeal to us. They just can’t stand up to that homegrown taste so we have pretty much quit buying them.
We just gorge ourselves for 4 weeks and then do without for the rest of the year.
This post is for those of you who are fairly new to growing melons and picking melons. One of the hardest things to figure out is when to pick melons.
I remember one of the first times we grew watermelons, we saw this beautiful sugar baby melon and waited patiently for it to ripen. But I really didn’t know what I was doing and picked it too soon. It was still white all the way through and we wasted it!
So now that I’m a pro at it (no I am not prideful), I thought I’d pass along what I have learned about picking melons. It is so hard to know when to pick melons but by following the tips below you will be picking the perfect melon each time! We only grow watermelon and cantaloupe so I will pass along what I have learned on those and ask my readers to add some input on other types of melons
When to Harvest Cantaloupe?
Cantaloupe (or muskmelons) are actually fairly easy to pick at the right time. Mainly because they pick themselves. You will know it is time to start watching your cantaloupes when they lose their green color and start to get a pale orange color. The “netting” will also become more pronounced.
When this starts to happen keep an eye on them. Where the vine attaches to the melon will start to separate.
The melon is ready when you give a gentle tug and the vine pulls free. If you tug and the vine holds on then give it another day and try again.
The key is that the vine slips off with just a gentle tug.
At this point, I usually then bring the melon inside and let it sit for a day or two on the counter, and then it’s perfect!
When to pick Watermelon-Picking Melons
Watermelon is much harder to pick. There are several ways folks will tell you to go about picking melons but for most of us those methods just don’t work. But there is a simple trick. Let’s talk about some of the “wives tales” first before we get to the sure method:
1. If you tap on the melon with your knuckles the “thunk” will sound similar to the sound you hear if you do the same thing to your chest. Professional melon growers use this trick to pick ripe melons but over their lifetime they have tapped on thousands of melons. Us gardeners just don’t have the experience (or practice) to reliably pick a ripe melon by sound.
2. When the spot touching the ground turns from white to yellow. I will admit that this is a good indication that the melon is getting close, but it is just not 100% reliable. When you see this color change then you know it’s time to start watching for our main method.
Picking Melons the right way
If you look closely at a watermelon you will notice that there are little curly tendrils all along the vine. Watermelon is ripe when the tendril closest to the melon dries up and turns brown. The tendril usually loses its curly end and what’s left becomes dry, straight, and stiff. It will slowly dry up and turn brown all the way up to the spot where it attaches to the vine. It’s important that you wait until it dries up completely. Once that tendril is dry the watermelon will hold on the vine for at the very most a week so but don’t leave it too long or it will get overripe and mushy. But once that tendril has dried you need to plan on getting it harvested. Here are some photos:
Here’s a tendril on a melon that hasn’t started ripening.
This one is starting to ripen, notice the curly part has fallen off.
This one is getting close but it’s not ready yet.
The tendril on this one is perfect, it’s ready to pick and eat at any time.
A mistake many newcomers make is to pick the watermelon too soon and then think they can leave the fruit sitting out and it will ripen. Watermelon just doesn’t do that. Once you pick a watermelon it won’t ripen anymore unlike other melons and other fruits. So be sure to wait for the tendril to dry up!
Here’s a photo of that perfect melon from above right after it was picked. It tasted awesome!! So the tendril rule works on any melon that is considered a watermelon, no matter the variety or size.