It’s a big question every summer: How to pick the very best watermelon.
So we sent correspondent Anna King to the heart of watermelon country in Hermiston, Oregon. Her mission: To find out how to pick the juiciest melon.
I started with the king of melons — Chris McNamee. He ships out about 40 semi-truck loads of Hermiston watermelons a day. The melons go to Canada, Utah and all around the Pacific Northwest.
Chris McNamee: “Everyone’s got a little bit different way they tell. Some of the melons are striped, so the stripes are a little more obvious. A little bit of a blush is how they like to tell they are ready. I’ve heard many, many different theories.”
In other words the guy that you think should know doesn’t know. But he says farmers do.
Chris McNamee: “They know their business better than anybody. This is what they do for a living. This is their baby and they know what they are doing.”
OK. Here I am in a field with a grower and his team. They work like a bucket brigade tossing water melons one-by-one to the truck.
Javier Barderis is one of the crew members who is cutting ripe melons from the plants. He decides when the melons are ready for picking.
How does he tell?
Javier Barderis: “When the watermelon has the white lines it means it’s good already. But you can tell by the stem when the watermelon is also good.”
With the stem he is looking to see if there are any tiny hairs. He says a hairless stem means a ready melon.
But Whoa. Conventional wisdom says it’s all about the thump. To check out that theory I went to Katie Walchli. She’s packing the fruit that will be loaded on the trucks.
Katie Walchli: “Usually you just pat them on the stomach.”
Sound: “Thumping sound.”
Katie Walchli: “That’s usually how you know it’s good.”
But she doesn’t sound all that convinced so I turn to Katie’s cousin Courtney Walchli. She looks for bee stings on the melon.
Courtney Walchli: “I look to see how many bee stings there are. I feel ‘em to see if there are any bumps so I can tell.”
The bumps are where the bees have given the melons their sweetness test.
Courtney Walchli: “They pollinate them and they sting them, that’s kind of how I tell.”
Alright we have bee stings, we have thumps we have hairy stems.
I think the great green globe leaves more questions than answers. But I have come away with this. The best way to find the perfect watermelon is to cut it open and eat it. And that’s one mission I can accept.