Tip of the Week-How to tell if a Melon is ripe?

Assortment of melons
*This is an updated post from my old blog.

Picking ripe fruit in many supermarkets is a hit and miss affair but if you take the time to read my tips I promise it will improve your chances.  Of course, if you lucky enough to live in a country with a warm enough climate to grow melons then you probably have roadside fruit and vegetable stalls where the farmer sells direct.

I try to buy fruit like melon or avocado several days in advance to give them a chance to ripen if need be. I use the same principle when buying for a restaurant. There is nothing worse than a “woody unripe melon” to give a bad first impression of a restaurant. Just like paying enough attention to the vegetables, a Head chef must pay serious attention to the ripeness of his fruit and vegetables and make seasonal adjustments. If you’re trimming the skin off you need to sometimes trim another 1/4 inch because the fruit right next to the skin can still be “woody” even though the rest of the fruit is ripe. I have sometimes seen well-meaning chefs trying to be thrifty not trimming enough off the melon.

Shopping Tips

Netted Melons (Galia, Cantaloupe, Musk, Charentais, Ogen, Uzbek)

  • Like the name suggests netted melon look as if they are covered with a fine netting. Generally speaking, it is easier to find a ripe netted melon than other types which have harder and thicker skin (rind). The perfume of a ripe netted melon is easy to spot.
  • Don’t buy them if the melon has any mould at the stem end or has got soft patches, you may find they taste winey and are past their prime.
  • Look at the stem end to determine when it was harvested. If it was cut from the vine and has a long green stem, that means it was harvested early, so it is not vine ripened.* Most melons sold in the UK are, of course, not vine ripen because of longer shipping distances from where it was grown.
  • If the stem has dried up and fallen off or is loose enough to gently pull away from the melon, then it’s probably ripe. I look for the ones that have a clean divot, where the stem used to be. Then I press on the divot to see if it yields a bit to the pressure, which is a good sign, and when most melons are fragrant, they’re ripe.
  • If you pick up two melons of the same size the heavier one will be the ripest.
  • The Uzbek (Russian) melon has a creamy yellow coloured skin with both faint lines and light beige netting. Its flesh has a creamy ivory hue with an oval seed cavity. When ripe, its flesh is exceptionally sweet, succulent and juicy with a floral aroma and undertones of honey and spice. Varying heavily in size and weight, Uzbek-Russian melons can weigh anywhere from five to twenty pounds and have an elongated shape.


Honeydew (yellow and green skin)

  • Unless you live in California finding a ripe honeydew melon is a difficult thing to do.  There are two colours of skin, yellow which has sweet green flesh and green skin that has a pale white flesh but is also sweet when ripe.
  • In California where the melons are ripened on the vine, you can tell when they are at their best because the yellow skin gets sticky.
  • If you pick up two melons of the same size the heavier one will be the ripest.

Watermelon (pale green and dark green skins)

  • Another test for ripeness is the tapping test. Just gently use the palm of your hand and tap the melon, if it sounds hollow this is an indication that the seeds have started to come away from the flesh as the juice builds up. This test can be used on any type of melon.
  • A dull coloured skin is also an indication that the melon is ripe and ready to eat.

Seasonal Adjustments to serving melon on your menu
During the summer months, if I am serving melon, I serve it very chilled to refresh. However, if I am serving melon during the holiday season I want it cool but not cold so the flavour comes through.

A few culinary Ideas
If you want to serve Parma ham with your melon don’t wrap it. This way if one or two of guests turn out to be vegetarian you haven’t got to lie through your teeth as you remove the ham behind the scenes. But equally importantly I want to be able to taste the wonderful contrast of these two very different ingredients. Make a dressing from simple sugar syrup then add fresh lime zest and juice…maybe a few seedless finely chopped birds-eye chillies because of the contrast of sweet and hot works well.   Bring the components together at the last moment for the best taste.

You can also try roasting the Parma ham to offer a contrast in textures, and crumble it up, on its own or with smoked crushed almonds (roast skin on almonds coated with smoked paprika).
Or if you prefer to keep the dish just fruit you could make a little fresh mint syrup and toss a few blackberries and raspberries into it.    Perhaps finely grate fresh ginger into some Crème Fraiche and add some ground cinnamon.

Interesting Facts
Botanically it belongs the same family as the cucumber, squash and pumpkins.
Honeydew is, in fact, the American name for the variety of melon, which has been grown for many years in southern France and Algeria. In China, honeydews are sometimes known as Wallace melons because they were introduced to China by Henry A. Wallace, Vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Some types of melon are classified as a fruit and others as a vegetable.  Various types of melon have been cultivated around the world for almost 4,000 years, Watermelon seeds were even found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

19 thoughts on “Tip of the Week-How to tell if a Melon is ripe?

  1. Thanks for following my blog, Chef. These hints are enormously helpful – I’ve manage to suss some of them out on my own over the years but you gave me some new information. Stop by my blog any time and I will check in on yours. There will be a shout out to you sometime soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. During the pandemic, we have been ordering a lot of groceries online as we are in a high-risk category for the coronavirus. We have resigned ourselves that we will have to discard some of the fruit and vegetables purchased this way. Sometimes I put on my mask and go out just to smell and thump the melons and choose my own meat and produce. Thank you, Kevin, for making this task a little more foolproof.

    Have a great day!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Cheryl,
      I’m glad you found my information on melons useful. I know for all of us 2020 has been a year of difficult choices and balance. I hope your online choices helps you try new foods or even new recipes if fruits and vegetables become overripe. I’m happy to make some suggestions if you tell me what fruit or vegetables you discard.

      Best Wishes

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Kevin, for your kind offer of advice. I am recovering from a three-month period of multiple illnesses following food poisoning, I think from some lettuce or spring mix. Produce quality has been affected by the coronavirus, as workers have been ill and supply chains disrupted. I am now trying to slowly transition off a very restrictive diet. When I have recovered, I hope to cook a greater variety of food. I know where there are some nice new recipes to try!!!

        One problem we have encountered is French beans that appear to have been treated with some kind of preservatives that make them hard, discolored, and inedible. Have you seen anything like that? I threw away three packages from two different stores and have been buying the regular green beans that you have to prepare yourself. They seem to be much fresher…and cheaper.

        We bought some melons and some peaches online that were picked too green and rotted before they ever ripened. Those also ended up in the garbage.

        Hopefully, there better times ahead for everyone!

        Take care,


        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear Cheryl,
        I would guess it is the result of some kind of preservative. In Europe the laws are much stricter and fresh is fresh. I would definitely complain to the company or supermarket you bought the beans and the melon from. As for the peaches I can offer a recipe to at least use those. Take the unripened fruit and cut into wedges. I cook it with some apricot jam, mixed ground spices or cinnamon and toss a few (skin on) almonds at the end make a delicious fruit topping that goes great with yogurt, or on top of porridge or even as a low calorie dessert. The recipe below is for plums but also works well with Peaches, Nectarines, or Apricots.

        Plump Fruit Topping ©Kevin Ashton 2018
        Here is a simple, delicious and cheap way to make a versatile fruit topping. You can use it on top of yogurt,
        or on your porridge or even as a low calorie dessert.
        400 grams of fresh plums
        250 grams red jam (cherry, strawberry or blackcurrant)
        1 medium sized Orange
        1/2 TBspoon +1 teaspoon of Custard Powder or cornstarch
        1/2 teaspoon of fresh cinnamon
        Method :
        1. Use a sharp knife and cut down each side of the plum stone, staying as close as you can to the stone.
        2. Cut each plum half into 3 equal wedges and reserve.
        3. Cut as much of the flesh off the remaining stones and add plum pieces to the plum wedges.
        4. Heat up the jam (on a low heat) in a small nonstick saucepan and add the juice of half of the orange. As the mixture heats add the cinnamon and stir well.
        5. Cook the jam mixture on a low for 3-4 minutes.
        6. Now add your plums to the jam and continue to stir gently, turning over the mixture.
        7. Mix the juice from the other half of your orange with the custard powder into a smooth paste.
        8. When the plums are almost cooked stir in the custard and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
        9. Remove from the heat and transfer to a clean plastic container and allow to cool.
        Chef’s tips
        I have used this method to make other fruit toppings from Peaches, Nectarines, Yellow plums and even Rhubarb from my sister’s garden. Remember to choose a jam most suited to the fruit you have such as apricot or peach jam if your fruit is either of those.


  3. Hi Kevin, I have just happened on you and your most kind commentaries and advices, and I am so impressed that you do that. Thank you for that, and for supporting us food folks who are curious enough to dig for more. I will be making your fruit topping with plums that’s are almost ready for harvest, if I can beat the squirrels to them. Yum!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, my comment, lots of thanks, is above. Thanks so much for the fruit topping recipe, I’ll be making it with our plums that are so close to ripe. Your presence here seems very kind, and is much appreciated. Calista

    Liked by 1 person

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