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Connecticut Garden Journal: Is My Melon Ripe?

Aug 17, 2017

It was a slow start to the melon and watermelon season. Cool, rainy spring weather delayed planting and early growth, but now they're coming on strong.

There's nothing like the taste of a vine-ripened cantaloupe or watermelon fresh from your garden. But the key to the best flavor for both types of melons is harvesting at the right time. An early-harvested melon won't be as sweet, and one that has ripened too long on the vine can get mealy textured.

So, here's your harvesting 101 for melons. Cantaloupes are easy to know when they're ripe. When the netting on the skin turns brown, the melon slips easily off the vine when gently tugged, and the blossom end has a sweet melon smell to it, it's ready to eat.

Other types of melons, such as crenshaw and honeydew, can be harvested early and matured indoors. However, while the fruits will get softer indoors, the flesh won't get any sweeter, so harvesting at the right time in your garden is still key.

Harvest honeydew and crenshaw melons when the skin color changes to a yellowish color and the stem end of the fruit is slighty soft when pressed with your finger. 

Watermelons are a bit harder to figure out. Look for the belly side of the watermelon to turn a yellowish color and the tendril, or curly cue, closest to the watermelon to be brown and dried up.

You can also try the thumping test with your thumb. When the sound changes from light and tinny to deep and dull, harvest away. This technique may take a bit of practice.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about goldenrod. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.