Melons are a sweet summer treat in San Antonio. End of the school year pool parties wouldn’t seem complete without sticky melon juice running down children’s faces. Melons can offer immediate, cool, refreshing reprieve on a hot summer day. But have you also experienced that deflating feeling you get when you slice through the rind, crack your melons open, only to realize your melons weren’t ripe enough and your anticipated summer treat won’t be tasty at all? Today’s blog will help you figure out the best time to harvest your melons by revealing the signs melons give when they are ready to be cut from the vine.

(See those creamy-yellow spots on some of these watermelon? That’s the “ground spot” color you want for a ripe watermelon.)

(This ripe muskmelon has a gorgeous golden-orange hue under it’s webbing.)

(Creamy white is dyn-o-mite on this ripe honeydew.)

(Look for a dull, matte finish on watermelon rinds rather than shiny.)

1. Check the coloring of melons as they get close to harvest dates.

Watermelons: Look for a creamy-yellow color on the “ground spot”, the area of the watermelon that has rested on the ground as it ripens. It changes color from light green to creamy-yellow when ripe.

  • If you’ve trellised your watermelons, they won’t have the ground spot, but you can look for a matte sheen as opposed to a shiny, glossy appearance.
  • There should be little contrast of color between the stripes on the melons.

Muskmelons: Observe the color behind the netting of these melons. When ripe, the color changes from green to a creamy tan/golden-orange hue.

Honeydew melons: These melons should have a creamy, yellowish white color over the entire surface when ripe. Like watermelon, honeydew melons should have a more dull, matted appearance rather than shiny.

2. Observe the point where melons attach to the vine for changes.

Attention to changes in the attachment points of melons to their vines is probably the most dependable way to judge when your melons are ready to harvest.

Watermelons: Wait until the tendril (a curly, short stem-like, part of the vine) closest to where the melons are attached to the vine, has dried up. Use a sharp knife to cut melons from the vine leaving about half an inch of the vine attached.

Muskmelons: Wait until the area where these melons attach to the vine is cracked about ¾ of the way around. A ripe muskmelon will detach easily with slight pressure to the vine as these melons naturally separate from the vine when ripe. Best to harvest at this point rather than waiting for it to slip from the vine naturally (unless you are prepared to then eat it right away, as it will over-ripen in a matter of 36-48 hours).

Honeydew melons: Check for a slight softening at the attachment point when given slight pressure with your thumb, then use a sharp knife to cut melons from vine leaving about an inch of the vine attached.

3. Use a good, old-fashioned thumping technique.

Watermelons: This technique works, but it’s a learned skill. Take a finger or two and knock the melons sharply and quickly while listening for a hollow sound, which indicates ripe melons.

4. Employ your nose.

Muskmelons: While giving the end of the melons a little pressure and feeling for a slight softening, smell for a fresh, slightly sweet fragrance that is emitted when these particular types of melons are ripe.

A few other tips to keep in mind about melons

  • Remember your planting dates to better judge when harvest time is close. Most melons require about 80-100 days from planting to harvest. If you are within that range, begin checking for the above signs that your melons are ripe.
  • Find your sweet spot. Once melons are cut from the vine, they don’t continue to ripen or increase their sugar content. But left on the vine too long, melons can get mealy and their appeal goes downhill. Diligent observation in the garden close to your harvest dates will have you slicing into sweet, juicy melons in the perfect timeframe.

~The Happy Gardener