No summer barbecue is complete without a big, dripping slice of watermelon after dinner. But do you know how to pick the best in the bunch? How about plums, peaches and berries? How do you know which are the sweetest and freshest on the shelves?
Here’s how! Follow our guide to picking the best summer fruit, every time:
You may have heard the whole “thump for the hollow sound” motto for choosing a watermelon, but mommy blogger Rachel Teodoro says on her website that the classic thumping method isn’t foolproof. Instead, she has her own way of finding the perfect watermelon, and she says on her blog that she hasn’t picked a bad melon yet.
The trick? Look for a watermelon with a nice creamy, yellow spot on its side or bottom; this is where the melon ripened. Also, look for a melon with lots of superficial scarring — these look like small scratch marks on the outer skin of the melon.”…I think the more scarring the better and have noticed a difference in sweetness,” Teodoro says.
Here are two pictures she posted as examples of perfectly ripe watermelons.
The best way to pick a cantaloupe is by smelling it, according to the folks at Real Simple magazine. “The fruit should have a sweet, slightly musky scent,” the magazine says on its website. Also, a choice cantaloupe should feel heavy, have a rind that “resembles raised netting,” and have “a stem end that yields slightly when pressed with your thumb.”
A good honeydew should have a dull-looking appearance, since shiny skin is a telltale sign of a underripe melon, according to this article on Kitchn.com. Also, honeydews should be pale to light yellow in color — not too green. And, if you touch the honeydew on the round part where it was attached to the vine, it should feel slightly soft and should smell “fresh and fragrant with a hint of sweetness.”
Peaches and Nectarines
It’s a little easier to choose a perfect peach or nectarine than it is to choose a melon, especially if you’re looking for ones that are ripe right now. First, you want to find ones that are slightly soft (but not too soft). As for color, “don’t look at the overall red blush of the peach; this is meaningless,” says the Los Angeles Times, who instructs fruit pickers to choose a peach or nectarine based on the background colors (the color right around the stem). If these “glow an orange-ish gold, they’ll be the sweetest and best-flavored.”
Any green means the fruit isn’t ripe (but will be ready in a day or two when stored at room temperature).
The foodies at Fine Cooking say that to find the perfect plum you’ve got to hold it in your hand: “It should feel heavy,” the magazine says in this article. “There should be some give, particularly at the blossom end (opposite the stem end). If the plum is too soft, it’s probably overripe.”
Unfortunately, how ripe a plum is won’t affect its sweetness much, since “the sugars must develop on the tree.” That said, if your plum is hard, you can store it in a paper bag to help soften it up within a day or two.
What’s your favorite summer fruit? Tell us in the comments below.