- Food and Cooking
The Ripe Watermelon Question
The "Just right" watermelon....
They're stretched before you.
Piled high to choose the right one.
Now, just how to choose.
The biggest, darkest?
What about the right sound test?
"Sniff the stem" some say.
Lovely shape, long, round?
"After all, it's a melon
farmers pick when ripe."
"Not so!" some warn us.
"Disappointment waits at home."
"Make choices wisely."
Picking and choosing....
Do you remember Bambi asking a friendly rabbit, "Why do they call you Thumper?"
They weren't rabbits, but some of these shoppers were definitely thumpers.
I am just back from a trip to a well-known box store. While there, and waiting for the missus to add to our cart, I settled down on a display of a multi-sectional set of matching living room furniture which happened to face a large display of bins of large watermelons.
When my wife returned, burdened with carrots, lemons, and bananas, I pointed to the crowd around the watermelons where each shopper was in the process of selecting the "just right" watermelon to take with them.
It was not but a few minutes before my wife and I were both smiling and chuckling about the variety of methods those shoppers were using to best guarantee the validity of their choices.
Their methods varied widely.
My wife left to continue her shopping. I continued observing the watermelon shoppers with a growing degree of fascination as I contemplated writing about their efforts and methods.
One shopper in a bright floral blouse used the common "knuckle knock" method, thought she had the right one, only to put it in her cart and then change her mind and resume her "knuckle knocking" of other melons until she chose what she apparently had determined was a "better one" and moved on.
Her place was taken by an older woman dressed in pastels and sandals who employed the "watermelon slap" method whereby she fine tuned her ear to listen for each watermelon's apparent "reply" until finally one gave the protest she was hoping for and doomed itself to later be dismembered and devoured.
Two men arrived with a totally new approach. While one of them held some watermelons back, the other dug to the bottom of the bin and, without so much as a slap or a knock, hauled from the depths of the bin an average looking watermelon for their cart. I could only presume that their process involved the concept that "enough pressure from above makes for a sweeter watermelon."
The next shopper I observed either had a lot of faith in the store's produce department or he was a gambler, for he just bent over picked up and carted a watermelon. He left to take his chances that his fairy godmother would bless his impulse choice with red ripeness.
The entertainment continued. A lady shopper with several good meals over her belt leaned down close to each watermelon as she gave first one and then another "the heel of the hand thump" and apparently listened for the echo from the far side of each watermelon until such watermelon sonar identified the under-the-rind fruit she was seeking.
Then there was the father with three children who magnanimously just allowed his oldest child to choose a watermelon for their cart in what would best be described as a "kid's preference" method, and the quartet moved on to whatever level of satisfaction that watermelon would offer. At least the dad could protest that "Junior made the choice, not me!"
Some shoppers simply caressed the watermelons as one might a cucumber to see if there might be any defensive needles to declare their freshness or maturity; but that method, while loving, failed to give any real clue that might have differentiated their method from any of the others, except for technique.
My wife returned, noticed I was still smiling and enthralled. She edged over to the watermelons, and after several of her own typical "knuckle knock" attempts, gave up in embarasment at my continued smiles, and contented herself with going home to what was left of her last, fine choice of a delicious watermelon.
So, what method or methods will you employ to assure yourself leaving the store with your own "just right" watermelon?
My brother-in-law writes that, after his last experience of choosing a somewhat hollow and flavorless watermelon, that he prefers "the knife method" by which a member of the produce department at his favorite store displays some already halved watermelons for which the red interior is firm to the right distance from the outer rind, so as to all but guarantee he is getting a good watermelon, if not a "just right" one.
You can take this poll to see how your own selection method compares to those of other readers of this column.
What "watermelon test" works best for you?
Do you prefer:
My personal choice?
My personal choice (to be on the safe side) is choosing ripe Santa Rosa plums from my own tree, and knowing that the birds seem to know exactly when the plums are reaching their peak of flavor.
I have experienced ants that know exactly when cantaloupe are at their peak of flavor, but Mother Nature seems to have few helpers (other than an arbitrary timetable) to tell me when a field of watermelons has ripe watermelons, short of "the knife method" my brother-in-law recommends.
Perhaps that is why shoppers are left to their own methods that are so varied.
© 2015 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.