By Richard Jauron and Willy Klein–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Few fruits are more refreshing on a warm summer day than melons. Melon quality — flavor, aroma, texture, and sweetness — is best when the sugar content of the fruit is high. Sweet melons need lots of sunlight, warm temperatures, enough water, and freedom from diseases and insects. Horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach tell how to know when melons are ready for harvest. To have additional plant questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at (515)-294-3108 or [email protected].
When Should I Harvest Watermelons?
Harvest watermelons when the underside or “belly” of the melon turns from a greenish white to buttery yellow or cream. This color change is especially pronounced on the dark, green-skinned cultivars. In addition, the fruit tends to lose its glossy appearance on top and becomes dull when ripe.
For most individuals, thumping or tapping the melon is generally not a good indicator of ripeness. Rapping an immature melon with your knuckles produces a metallic ring. A ripe melon gives off a hollow or dull ring. While experienced growers may be able to determine the maturity of watermelons using the thump test, most individuals will have difficulty differentiating between the two sounds.
When harvesting watermelons, leave two inches of the stem on the fruit. Watermelons can be stored at room temperature for about one week and for two to three weeks at fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit.
When Should I Harvest Muskmelons?
The fruit of muskmelon or cantaloupe is mature when the stem pulls (slips) easily from the melon. The melon is not ripe if the stem has to be forcibly separated from the fruit. Other indicators of maturity are based on touch, appearance, and aroma. The flower end (the end opposite the stem) of the melon should be slightly soft. The skin between the netting turns from green to yellow at maturity. Finally, a ripe melon produces a strong “muskmelon” aroma.
Muskmelons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The optimum storage temperature is thirty-six to forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Before refrigerating, place melons in plastic bags to prevent the muskmelon aroma from flavoring other stored foods.
When Should I Harvest Honeydews?
Unlike muskmelons, the fruit of honeydews do not slip off the vine when mature. Indicators of ripeness are a change in color of the honeydew from pale green to yellowish white, a slight softening of the blossom end of the fruit, and the development of a light, pleasant aroma. Honeydews can be stored for two to three weeks at a temperature of fifty degrees Fahrenheit.