Honeydew melon is the taste of summer all wrapped up in a convenient package. While they’re available in stores most of the summer, they’re not always picked at the peak of ripeness. Honeydews get softer when they’re off the vine but they don’t get sweeter. Knowing when to pick or harvest a honeydew melon means you’ll get it at its very best.
The seed package will have a days-to-harvest range. Use this as a guide not the exact date to pick the honeydew melon. Cool weather, not enough rain or cloudy days may delay the harvest beyond the package guide. Honeydew melons require a long growing season of warm weather. If that’s not possible, plant the seeds inside to give them a head start and transplant in the garden when the weather is warm.
One tip in knowing when to harvest is the scent of the fruit. The melon will smell sweet with a faint odor of melon. It’s not as strong as ripe cantaloupe but it’s much stronger than ripe watermelon which has hardly any scent at all. In the grocery store it’s easy to pick up a melon and sniff. In the garden you’ll have to get down to ground level.
Feel the surface of the melon because that’s another way to tell if is ripe. A very fine netting should be apparent to your fingers but won’t be visible to the eye. If the melon is beige with green veining it’s not ready yet. The melon should feel heavy for its size. Pick it up gently so you don’t yank it off the vine. The area near the blossom end should be softened and the stem end a bit springy. The melon should be pale yellow with patches of lemon yellow.
If the melon is in the garden the sure way to determine if it’s ripe is to taste it. This works if you have a number of melons growing. Wasting one or two won’t be a problem. If the first one isn’t ready yet the others will mature in a few days to a week. If you only have a few honeydew melons, sacrificing one may not be reasonable. Use other methods.
Many gardeners think that if a melon, including honeydew melons, slips off the vine without much of a struggle, that it’s ripe. Unfortunately over ripe melons do the same thing. Some melons like watermelon and Persian melons don’t slip off at all.
Dee Power is the author of several nonfiction books.