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Chowline: Is this Melon Ripe?

 What’s the best way to choose the perfect melon?

Whether it’s watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, or other melons, summer days (or any day!) are a wonderful time to indulge in these delicious, nutritious fruits.

Not only do these fruits taste wonderful, but they are also healthy, low-calorie treats that are packed with vitamins. For example, a cup of cantaloupe has 60 calories and is rich in vitamins A and C, while a cup of honeydew has 64 calories and is rich in vitamin C and potassium and provides B vitamins. A cup of watermelon has about 45 calories and has significant amounts of vitamins A and C.

Watermelon is also 93% water, and the red variety is a good source of lycopene, a phytonutrient that gives watermelon its color. Lycopene appears to protect the body against a growing list of cancers, which includes prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancers, according to an Ohio State University Extension Ohioline fact sheet.

Another benefit is that lycopene helps protect cells in the body from damage associated with heart disease.

When choosing the perfect cantaloupe, it is important to make sure the melon has no bruises or discolorations. It should have a smooth, slightly sunken, and well-rounded stem end; a sweet, musky aroma; and a prominent and evenly distributed corky web-pattern that is buff or a light tan color on either a green, yellow, or gray background.

Ripe honeydew should have a creamy yellow color when picked. If the melon is green when picked, it will never ripen, according to the OSU Extension fact sheet. The skin should have the feeling of velvet, and the blossom end should feel slightly springy.

When it comes to watermelons, here are a few tips from OSU Extension, the Watermelon Board, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how to pick the best one:

  • Look at the spot where the melon has been resting on the ground. A pale yellow or cream spot indicates ripeness, while a pale green or white spot indicates immaturity.
  • Scratch the surface of the rind with your thumbnail. If the outer layer slips back with little resistance, showing the green-white under the rind, the watermelon is ripe. Scratching unripe melons leaves only a darker, depressed line.
  • Choose a melon with a smooth surface, a dull sheen, and well-rounded ends.
  • Choose a melon that doesn’t have bruises, cuts, or dents.
  • Pick up the watermelon. It should be heavy for its size. As a watermelon is 93% water, most of the weight is water.
  • If you are choosing precut watermelon, the more red flesh and less white rind, the riper the melon.

And remember, even though you typically don’t eat the peel from most melons, it is important that you wash the melons under running water before cutting into them. Melons are grown on the ground and can sometimes harbor harmful bacteria. Peeling or cutting unwashed produce can transfer dirt or other contaminates from the surface of the produce to the portion of the fruit or vegetable you plan to eat.

In fact, firm produce such as melons should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting into them. And they should then be dried off with a clean paper towel or cloth to further reduce harmful bacteria that may be on the skin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or [email protected].

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