by Sandy Swegel
My gardening buddies had an ice tea party at a nearby market farm this week. Long hot summer days are ripening melons and we were eager to do some taste testing, but how do you know when melons are ripe? They all look great. They have a good size. We were crouching among the plants thumping and sniffing, trying to find a perfect melon. And somebody pulled a beautiful baby watermelon that was the darkest green…we figured it had to be ripe. Nope, cutting it open revealed flesh that had only just started turning pink. If only there were some way to glue the melon back together.
Farmer Mimi finally took pity on us and showed us how to know if melons are ripe.
She grows two general types of melons in her field: watermelons and “slip” melons such as cantaloupe and muskmelons that slip off the vine when they are ready.
The slip melons are easy: they are ripe when they easily slip from the plant when you tug lightly. If they don’t come off the vine easily, leave them a few more days. Muskmelons will also smell wonderful when they are ripe.
Watermelons don’t slip but they are just as easy to know when they’re ready if you look at the plant. Very close to each fruit, a tendril grows. It’s usually green and curly. When it dries up completely and turns brown or black, the fruit is ripe. That was so much easier than thumping every watermelon in sight.
We also got a great growing tip for getting lots of melons. Melons like hot days and warm nights. Here in Colorado, we have hot days but the nights cool off. Good for us but not so much for the melons. Mimi told us that black plastic mulch under your melons will significantly increase how many melons you get and speed up how soon they are ready.
In these hot summer days, we definitely need more melons.
For everything you ever need to know about harvesting melons, using plastic mulch and knowing when to harvest: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/M1262.html