Juicy, red watermelon is the perfect addition to any summer get-together. But how do you pick the perfect one? Nearly all of us are familiar with the disappointment of biting into a flavorless, unsweet watermelon. This has probably happened when you selected the wrong watermelon at the grocery store or maybe you harvested your homegrown watermelon at the wrong time.
Watermelons don’t continue to ripen after harvest. That’s why it’s so important to pick one that’s perfectly – both at the grocery store and when you’re harvesting in your backyard.
This guide will walk you through how to harvest watermelon, for the sweetest, juiciest watermelon possible.
Before you go looking for the perfect melon, you’ll need some tools first, including:
- Pruning shears
Growing watermelon is relatively easy. To grow it outside, you do need to live in a climate with lots of heat; if you live in a cooler climate, consider planting your watermelon in a greenhouse. You’ll want to choose your variety based on your climate and growing season.
Watching your watermelon grow, as it swells from a tiny ball to a giant melon, is pretty exciting! It can be amazing to see how much water they need — about 1 to 2 inches a week. That water is the key to growing this thirst-quenching fruit.
When to Harvest Watermelon
Watermelon is ready to harvest anywhere from 70 to 100 days after sowing, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Many backyard gardeners prefer to save space by planting bush (or shorter-vined) varieties. Sugar baby is popular for its sweetness and compact vine structure, and is ready to harvest in 75 to 80 days. Check the variety you are growing for an approximate harvest date.
Since watermelon doesn’t ripen off the vine, it’s best to pick it when you are ready to eat it. There are a few ways to determine if a watermelon is ready for harvest. If the melon was laying on the ground, its underside should have turned from white to yellow. The rind will also turn dull from its previous waxy shine. When you knock on the melon with your hand it should sound hollow.
However, the biggest indicator of readiness is the dryness of the vines. You will notice close to harvest time, the tendrils on the ground will start to wilt and turn brown.
About a week before the watermelons are ready for harvest, limit the amount of water you give it. The reduction in water causes the sugars in the fruit to sweeten making for the tastiest watermelon. It may also help lessen the chance of splitting, which can be caused by excessive water intake or intense heat.
How to Harvest Watermelon Seeds
Inspect the stem of the watermelon you are about to harvest. Ensure that the nearest tendril is brown. This is the final check that the melon is ready for harvesting. Using pruning shears, cut the stem, leaving about 2 inches on the fruit. Store right away.
If you have a few that overripen, not to fret; it’s an ideal opportunity to harvest seeds for the following year. Leave these melons until the vines have completely dried out and then harvest. Store in a cool, dry area for a few more weeks. Do not store them in the fridge.
Using a kitchen knife, cut the watermelons open lengthwise and then split them into quarters. Remove the seeds with your hands or a spoon. You can sort through the seeds by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Discard any seeds that float. Use the colander to drain the water, saving the remaining seeds. Dry the seeds for at least a week before storing them.
How to Store Watermelon
Store your whole, uncut watermelon in a cool location, such as a cellar. After harvest, they will keep for two to three weeks, depending on the storage conditions. Once the watermelon is cut, it will last for about one week in the fridge.
Due to its short shelf-life, and the space restraints of storing watermelon in your refrigerator, you may want to consider freezing some of it. You can freeze chopped or pureed watermelon. Both are versatile for a variety of snacks, desserts, and drinks. Watermelon popsicles make for a refreshing late-summer treat. If stored in proper containers, frozen watermelon will stay good for up to eight months, just in time for next season’s harvest.
Pick and Eat
The key to the perfect bite of watermelon is to harvest it when ripe and eat it right away. Watermelon won’t continue to ripen after it’s picked, so leave the fruit on the vine until it’s ready. Since they won’t store long, you may want to give a few away to family and friends.
Are you growing watermelon this summer? How’s it going? Tell us in the comments!