Master gardener Everett Price of Haysville grows cantaloupe on a trellis, tying women’s nylon hose around emerging fruit so that when it’s ripe, it simply falls off the vine and into the stocking.
If you’re not using that surefire method of telling when the melon is ripe, you can test it by a gentle pressure where the vine attaches to the fruit. If the melon slips easily from the vine, it’s ripe. The stem end also should be fragrant — a sign that you can use also when selecting melons at the farmers market or grocery store. Also, look for a clean, dish-shaped scar, Ward Upham of K-State says.
Cantaloupe, or muskmelon, is the easiest melon to check for ripeness, Upham says. Others are not so straightforward.
When deciding when to pick watermelon, look for the tendril where the melon attaches to the vine to dry and turn brown, Upham says. “On some varieties this will need to be completely dried before the watermelon is ripe. On others it will only need to be in the process of turning brown,” he writes in the Horticulture 2014 newsletter.
The surface of a watermelon also develops a surface roughness near the base of the fruit and a yellow “ground spot” when ripe. The ground spot is where the melon touches the ground.
Earlidew honeydew melons slip like cantaloupes when ripe, but other honeydews don’t. “Ripe honeydew melons become soft on the flower end of the fruit,” Upham says. “The ‘flower end’ is the end opposite where the stem attaches. Also, honeydews should change to a light or yellowish color when ripe, but this varies with variety.”