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Awake at the Whisk: Watermelon Stories

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Watermelon Stories

Tap the bottom to see if it makes a hollow sound. Look for a creamy yellow underside. The fruit should feel heavy for its size. How do you tell when a watermelon is finally ripe?! I have struggled with the above tips as a home gardener. Allow me to illustrate…

In early July, my watermelon vines had made their way out of the garden bed, into the neighboring bed, up the fence, and nearly to the neighbor’s yard. I watched excitedly! This excitement peaked when I noticed giant, green orbs beginning to poke through the foliage. They grew larger and larger until one day I was sure they must be ready to eat. (I think I waited a whopping one week.) I selected the largest melon from the pile—a heavy monster that I just knew was going to make my summer! It made a hollow noise when tapped. That was a sure sign of readiness. I practically ran to the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife, and prepared for surgery. One large gash down the middle, and the melon fell gracefully open.

That’s when I had to hold back the tears. I was staring not at the deep pink of a ripe garden watermelon. Instead, I found myself looking into a white abyss. Perhaps I unknowingly planted a white-colored heirloom variety? Yes, that must be it! I sliced off a chunk and took a bite: lots of water, but almost no flavor. Why me?!

So, I waited. And waited. About a month passed. In early August, the watermelon vines became loaded with aphids. The sneaky pests were taking over. I decided to trim back any vines that weren’t feeding large melons. I accidentally snipped a vine that fed into a small watermelon. He had a creamy yellow bottom and was very heavy for his size. Bingo! Watermelon season has arrived! My mouth watered in anticipation.

Meanwhile, upon closer inspection of my remaining watermelons, I noticed that three of the beauties were sliced open, rotting on the ground. How did that happen? The openings looked like precise cuts. Did a bird do it? Did the watermelons themselves break open because they were overly ripe? Such a mystery! But that left one thing certain in my mind… the watermelon I had recently taken from the vine was sure to be ripe through and through!

In the kitchen, my discovery did not match my hypothesis. Once open, the melon revealed a pale pink flesh. This was a far cry from the pure white a month earlier, but certainly nowhere near ripe. My disappointment became palpable. Even my cat wanted to cry. Two watermelons that had gone under the knife did not make it out alive. Three lay on the ground, rotting. I am left with six fair-sized fruits that I am anxious to eat. I absolutely love that juicy splendor of deep, ripe watermelon. But I fear I am destined to be denied due to my amateur gardening skills.

I will make another attempt in a week or two. This time, I’ll try watching for the browning of the curly vines near the stem of the fruit. Maybe this will be the tip that finally works. Cross your fingers for me, and stay tuned to find out whether I ever discover ripe watermelon as the saga continues…!

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