Last Updated: November 13, 2020
Sugar baby melons on the vine and those stacked up at the grocery shelves all look the same — at least for the unacquainted person. And there’s a big problem.
Backyard melons don’t slip off the vine to signal to garden owners that they’re ready for pick up. And likewise, stacks of juicy watermelons lined up at the grocery shelves definitely have the unripe, sturdy culprits hiding low key somewhere in between the luscious deal; if you’ve ever brought home a half-grown melon from the farmers market, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Melons don’t continue to ripen after they’re harvested. Keeping them at the countertop or in the refrigerator in the hopes that they do so is only a waste of time. Once they are cut off from the vines securing them, that’s it, no more ripening till like, forever. Thats why it’s extremely important that you know how to tell apart a ripe melon from a half-grown or still growing one, for the sake of your next garden harvest or grocery shopping.
Which brings us to the burning question. How can you tell when a sugar baby watermelon is ready for picking?
Thankfully, there are several reliable indicators that can signal to you when a sugar baby melon is fully ripened and when it’s not, and quite easily. We’ll go through each one of them in details but before that, here is a general overview of the answer for those that are short in time.
When is a sugar baby watermelon ripe?
On the vine, a sugar baby watermelon is ready for picking when it has a prominent yellow splotch underneath it, develops a slightly sweet aroma resembling the tang of a typical melon (the ripened one of course) and gives off a “muffled” hollow sound when thumped with the knuckle or flicked gently at the surface. At the groceries or the farmers market, the same factors are often reliable indicators of when a sugar baby watermelon is ripe.
Picking or buying the perfect sugar baby watermelon
Picking the perfect sugar baby on the backyard vine is an art you can quickly master with practice. Same thing for picking them at the grocery stores or farmers market. You don’t need any assistance, just look out for these simple tips and signs and we guarantee you a perfectly ripe melon every single time.
Here are the tips for hunting the perfect sugar baby watermelon everytime. The summarized version of the tips in a card form is provided at the end.
- Keep count of growth from day one: This obviously applies to individuals cultivating their own sugar babies at home. The seed packaging you brought in from the stores should contain information regarding the yield size to expect and the total amount of time it should take for the melon to fully ripen; provided all pre-stated conditions of the package are met, for example, adequate soil, nutrients, watering and lack of diseases and pest issues. This estimation is usually a good place to start tracking when to expect your glowing sugar babies to ripen. So take note of the date you planted them, (we’re expecting you know how to properly cultivate a sugar baby water melon in the first place), and follow the six crucial steps outlined below to always pick the ripe ones.
- Tendril: Sugar baby melons take approximately 75 days to mature following germination of seeds. So putting this at the back of your mind, you should start checking the fruit for ripeness when it’s near this threshold period. You can use the seed packaging as a guideline too. The nearest tendril — a short, curly and stem-like vine closest to the melon fruit starts out green on the growing melon and eventually fades into a brown coloration after the fruit begins to mature. It also takes up a dead and dried look. When you first observe the browning of this tendril, mark this date on the melon or on a record book and let the fruits sit on the vine for additional one week. Harvest your fresh and brimming sugar babies the following week. Be on alert though. Any melon having tendrils, vine and many leaves turned brown and crackly is probably starting to turn overripe. Letting sit on for a few more weeks can cause it to go bad especially when it rains heavy.
- Color: Color is another reliable indicator of a ripe sugar baby, although it’s not a fail-proof test. Young sugar babies start out with a brightly colored rind (green) and eventually fade into a dull coloration after maturity. The rind also become less tough (not soft though) and gives easily to gentle squeezing by the fingers. Unripe melons are tough when squeezed having no “give” at all.
- Field spot: By far, the best indicator of a ripe sugar baby melon is the field spot. This is simply the spot underneath or at the bottom of the watermelon that has not been exposed to sunlight during growth; that’s if you haven’t done the needless honors of rolling the fruit periodically during growth. The field spot of a ripened melon is almost always buttery or yellowish in color. Unripe melons have white field spots and letting them sit for a few more weeks can do the trick of turning the field spots yellow.
- Smell: You know how the typical summer melon smells like right? Slightly sweet to the nostrils. That’s how the fully ripe melon on your backyard vine should smell like too. To perform this test, pick up the melon slightly far away from other melons (to avoid any compromise in smell), and sniff it. If you get that slightly sweet melon smell typical of watermelons, the fruit is likely done. If you smell an overly sweet scent, the melon is probably going overripe. Pluck it by cutting rather than pulling and use as required.
- Weight: Unripe melons are typically light to the feel whereas fully ripe melons are heavy for their sizes. This can be a good indication of which two identical melons to go with while at the stores. Weigh both melons, and if one turns out heavier than the other, go for it. It’s most likely the ripest.
- Sound: Because a ripened melon is filled to the core with fresh juice, thumping it with a knuckle or flicking at the surface should produce a low-pitched or muffled sound similar to “plunk”. For a growing fruit, the water is still building up, so the fruit is still ripening. The sound should be more of “thwak” than “plunk”. Use these indicators to identify which watermelon is ripe and which isn’t. Vine or supermarket.