When it comes to picking produce at our local market or grocery store, many of us are… well… shallow. We tend to fill our carts with only the prettiest, most visually appealing fruits and veggies.
This practice leads to unnecessary food waste, and leaves quite a lot to be desired. We’re quite happy to observe that the collective consciousness seems more aware of the colossal problem of food waste. Apps that showcase “ugly” products or food that would otherwise go to waste as perfectly good for consumption are making a dent, as are cool companies that feature “ugly” produce.
However, in the case of the watermelon, it turns out that certain elements most watermelon pickers consider defects (like discolorations, dark spots, and webbing) are actually signs of a delicious and nutritious melon.
How to pick a watermelon
Nguyen swears that ugly watermelons are usually the sweetest of the bunch—Even though she is a food expert now, her watermelon picking method stretches back into her childhood, before she rose to fame in the food world.
When she was young, Nguyen’s father let her in on the secret to sweet watermelons. “He would tell me that picking a sweet watermelon is really easy just by looking at it,” she recounts.
The following “ugly watermelon” characteristics are actually indicators of sweetness and flavor.
A big yellow patch
On hot summer days, many daydream of the “perfect” watermelon with uniform shades of green stripes alternating smoothly across the whole fruit. Not many imagine breaking into a watermelon with those big yellow patches—but Nguyen advises watermelon lovers to seek out the big yellow patch, “because that’s the part that lays under the sun. The bigger the patch, the longer it was ripening in the ground,” she explains. This means that the watermelon is at peak ripeness, which also means peak sweetness and juiciness.
Lots of webbing
Watermelon seekers generally turn their noses up at watermelons with a lot of webbing, which are the spindly grey-ish lines that interrupt the pleasant green patterns on a watermelon’s rind. Webbing is seen as ugly, but it’s actually “caused by bee pollination—is if there’s more webbing, it’ll be sweeter.”
Watermelons with lots of dark spots on their rinds aren’t flawed! “These dark spots actually indicate that sugar is seeping out, which is just another sign that the watermelon is very sweet,” Nguyen says.
One final thing Nguyen advises is to make sure that your watermelon is dense and heavy. This “indicates that it’s full of water and not dry.”
So, now that you’re armed with these three watermelon picking secrets, you’ll be able to enjoy only the sweetest watermelons til summer’s end. And while you pick these “ugly” melons, perhaps you’ll be reminded that outward appearances don’t always reflect the inner value of fruit, veggies, or people.