Is My Melon/Squah Ripe Yet??
Cantaloupes are generally pretty easy to tell when they are ripe. First, many cantaloupe varieties will turn from a dark green to a much paler color (off-white, yellow, pale green, etc. it depends on the variety). Second, many cantaloupe varieties will also “slip” off the vine when they are ripe. When I see cantaloupes that are close to being ripe, I go out daily and gently nudge the vine where it connects to the fruit. When it’s ripe, the vine should pop off to gentle pressure. Emphasis on being gentle! If you push too hard, you may get a “false positive” and the fruit will not continue to ripen once it’s off the vine. I use the word “many” in both these tells, because there are definitely a few varieties that have darker skins and don’t slip off the vine when they are ripe. It’s important to keep track of the variety name, and when in doubt, do an internet search and get an exact description of what that variety looks like when it’s ripe. The variety we handed out, Sugar Cube, does turn lighter and does slip off the vine, so it’s easy to tell. If you planted another variety, please check your seed catalog for details!
Watermelons are a little harder, but there are some good signs. First, watermelons will develop a yellow colored “moon” on the part of the melon that is in contact with the ground. This moon will start off very pale/white and will darken into a vibrant yellow color. When you are picking a watermelon, you want a dark yellow/orange moon. The darker the moon, the sweeter the melon. Second, the curly cue tendril closest to the melon will be brown and dry. Third, the melon’s rind will look dull. Unripe watermelons are more shiney in appearance. Finally, and most subjectively, ripe watermelons will make a hollow sound when you thump it with your fingers. However, this takes some experience to tell the difference in sound between ripe and unripe melons, so I would rely on the other signs first.
Winter squash are probably the hardest, simply because there is so much variety in appearance between them all that it’s difficult to describe them all. Google your variety name to get pictures of what the ripe fruit looks like so you know what you’re looking for. First, you are looking for uniform coloring on the fruit. Unripe squash generally have a spotted or striped appearance that disappears as the fruit matures. You want a uniform, vibrant color on a ripe squash or pumpkin. Some varieties have been bred to be spotted or striped at maturity, but still you should observe some color changes and darkening as it approaches maturity. Some darker varieties (acorn squash in particular) also have a moon on the bottom, like a watermelon. Again, you want the moon to be a dark, vibrant color. Finally, most ripe winter squash will have rinds that cannot be easily nicked by your fingernail. Test your squash periodically by gently pressing the edge of your fingernail into the side. If you can easily make a dent in the squash, it’s probably not ripe yet.