Selecting Fruits and Veggies Part 1: Melons

by Kelsey Norwood

in Food

I never really know how to get the ripe stuff at the store when it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables. Some things are easy, like bananas and apples, but melons and things that are a little more secretive about their fleshy insides are quite vexing to me. I just bought a bag full of nectarines that were neither ripe nor delicious. I never know if the fruit in question will ripen up or if it’s just bad and will only get worse.

So. I’m diving into my old school textbooks to learn about selecting fruits and vegetables. I must have skipped reading that section at the time, and had quite forgotten that little vault of useful information in my recipe cupboard until just the other day. I’m glad we’ve finally found each other. Goodbye to undesirably crisp, sour, tasteless fruit.

I will be posting a series on choosing different fruits and vegetables over the next little while. My food science teacher, Janet Stocks, at BYU wrote the textbook, and all the information will be coming from handouts and texts I received in her class, so she’s really the genius behind all of this.



selecting ripe cantaloupe melon

Cantaloupe is a summer fruit, usually available between March and September. You can probably buy melons all year round, but they will be least expensive in season. The three signs of maturity are as follows:

  1. The stem should be gone. If some of the stem remains attached, the melon is not mature.
  2. The veining should be thick, course, and corky, and should stand out more drastically in some places than in others.
  3. The base skin color should be pale yellowish, not green.

A ripe melon will have a noticeable cantaloupe aroma and will yield to gentle pressure on the bottom end. An overripe melon will be very yellow, soft along the entire rind, and the flesh will be soft and watery.

Honey Dew

selecting ripe honey dew melon

Honey dew is also a summer fruit, but unlike cantaloupe, honey dew melon has a smooth rind rather than a veiny and coarse one, and has more of an oval shape. The rind color is very light, ranging from creamy white to creamy yellow, and the stem doesn’t not separate from the fruit when ripe but must be cut.

A honey dew melon is mature when the rind is soft and velvety and has the same fruity aroma and yielding to gentle pressure as cantaloupe. An overripe honey dew melon is stark white or greenish white in color.


selecting ripe watermelon

Watermelons are also at their peak in the summer months, June, July, and August. Determining the quality of a watermelon before it is cut open is very difficult , but look for a melon that has a smooth rind with a matte finish, not dull or shiny, with rounded out ends, and a creamy color on the underside.

The inside flesh should be firm and red with no white streaks, and seeds should be dark brown or black (unless it is a seedless watermelon, in which case the seeds will be white.) An overripe melon will have watery and stringy flesh and white seeds.

I hope this will help you select more juicy and delicious fruit! Check back tomorrow to learn about selecting mature and ripe berries.


1 Alexis July 15, 2008 at 5:32 am

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I always hear all the old wives tales about picking the right melons..but they haven’t proved true yet! This is great! I love melons during the maybe I can find some that are just ‘ripe’ haha. Thanks for the tips, can’t wait to read more about picking ripe fruits and veggies!

2 Jeri July 15, 2008 at 7:40 am

My mom always told me to smell the cantaloupe and honeydew melons so I guess she was right. Also you can gently tap the watermelon and if it sounds hollow, like a drum, it is usually a good one. A mushy one usually has a duller sound when you tap it.

3 Dawna July 15, 2008 at 2:18 pm

You read my mind! I am always wondering how to pick melons and never think to find out about it until I am standing in the produce section of a store. Great tips and I can’t wait to read more in the days to come. Thanks!

4 paul young April 11, 2009 at 6:47 am

Will melons ripen after cutting???

5 Donna Sanford August 14, 2010 at 6:41 am

I have grown canteloupe and watermelon in my garden for years. The easiest way to test for ripeness in the garden is by lifting the melon (just the stem end of it in the case of watermelon) to see if the stem falls away from the melon.. In the store the best way to determine a ripe canteloupe is to look for a golden color behind the netting and smell the stem end for a very sweet fragrance. For watermelons push in on the end opposite the stem–it should have a slight give to it which indicates ripeness. Then knock lightly on the center of the melon and listen for a hollow sound. A dull thud indicates the center of the melon is mushy and over ripe. Hope this helps!

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