How to Tell If a Melon Is Ripe—and Pick Perfectly Every Time

Next time you're at the store, here's how to tell if a melon is ripe. Hint: You'll need to tap into all your senses!

Nothing says “summer” like a sweet and juicy melon! (Especially an extra-refreshing watermelon.) That’s why getting home and finding you’ve purchased a lackluster cantaloupe, honeydew or watermelon is so disappointing. This guide will show you how to tell if a melon is ripe before you make your decision in the produce section.

Conventional wisdom says thumping a melon is the best way to tell if it’s sweet and juicy. But here’s what you should do first:

How to Pick a Watermelon

Start be looking at the skin’s “finish.” A ripe watermelon will have a dull skin—which is somewhat unexpected. You also don’t want to see bruises, spots or cracks. You’ll also notice most watermelons develop a spot where they rest on the ground, and when it’s yellow (and you don’t see any stripes on the patch), the melon should be ripe and ready to slice.

After all that, you can tap or thump the melon with your palm—a ripe watermelon should sound hollow and make a thunk sound.

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How to Pick a Cantaloupe or Honeydew

To choose a cantaloupe or honeydew, start by checking the number of segments or dark furrows. The more the better! Then, give the melon a sniff where it was attached to the vine. It should have a subtle, sweet smell but not a strong one (that’s a sign of an over-ripe fruit).

Be sure to check the melon’s color and tone. The best and sweetest cantaloupe should have golden undertones. Like the watermelon, a dull honeydew is a ripe honeydew.

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Do Some Heavy Lifting

Before you make your final decision, pick up the melon and make sure it feels heavy for its size. Compare a few similar-sized melons to find the heftiest one. If there’s a stem, it should not be squishy-soft but should yield to gentle pressure from your thumb. If there’s no stem, check the blossom end (that’s the opposite end) the same way.

No matter which melon is on the menu, taking the time to use all of your senses will yield juicy results!

PsstSee what melon keeps ripening after you buy it—and what melon doesn’t.

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Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.