How To Tell if a Trellised Watermelon is Ripe

After my post last week about harvesting and tasting a couple of melons, I emailed with a reader who was wondering how to tell if her trellised watermelons were ripe and ready to pick.

The real challenge is that the typical “first sign” is to look for the yellow spot on the bottom where it is sitting on the ground…except that there is no spot on trellised melons! The next guideline (which can vary with variety) is to look for the tendril closest to the melon to see if it is dying and drying to brown. The other guideline is to feel the rind for “sugar bumps,” tiny bumps that develop when there is a high sugar concentration, signalling ripeness.

Now in my book, the yellow spot is most reliable, and the options become increasingly unreliable. Sugar bumps? Really? Of course, lots of people use the “thumping” method, but that isn’t very reliable either. I think some people are better at it than others, but you still sometimes get a dud.

Anyway, long story short, I decided to go out and take a look at the vine to see if there was any sign of the tendrils browning – either where we had picked a couple melons earlier this week or next to some of the other melons on the vine. And what do you know? There were brown tendrils!

So now the next step is to correlate the brown tendrils with actual ripe, tasty watermelons.

UPDATE: I picked 3 watermelons on Friday that we tried at the Saturday Sampler this weekend. One was actually overripe and decaying, (which I thought had a still green tendril, but maybe not…) The one that had a fully dried tendril was perfect, and the one that was still drying down was good, but not as good as the other one. So in this case, the tendrils are a good guide!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on August 19, 2013, in Around the Garden, Harvesting & Eating and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’ve also read that there is a spoon leaf that browns as well as the tendril. It helped to look for it where the tendril had disappeared (bugs or over zealous weeding).

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