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Keeping Up With Maury
Getting the best Watermelon
by Maury Feren

You want to be sure that you are getting the sweet benefits of the peak of the watermelon season. Mid July is peak. Most shipments are coming from the heart of Georgia and the picking is good.

I don't know how many of you have noticed the change in variety. Most all of the watermelons are the round seedless. Another thing you don't find any long varieties or the light gray long shipments. The big cutters that are used in supermarkets for slicing are rare. They are hardly offered for sale.

The baby watermelons, the shipped variety, offered in about a 3lb. venue have made a dent in the market but they rarely meet the sweetness test.

Here is a little watermelon history. Originally, going back to the 30's and 40's and as late as the 70's the only varieties that were shipped were transplants of variety melons discovered in Africa by the explorer Livingston. These served the public well. They generally ran up to a 30lb. average with a few smaller sizes. It was very difficult for growers to develop a smaller melon that you could put in your refrigerator. In most cases you had to purchase halves, quarters, or small slices.

The popular varieties were the striped long variety with an occasional shipment of the all green round Dixie. You would see an abundance of long grays and they seemed to come up with a 20 - 22 lb. melon that had maneuverability. When the refrigerators became larger people just turned to them. They still retain their natural stripes but they no longer have a relationship with their African brothers. They have been genetically engineered to meet the pace of the day. This is the size that the consumer has come to accept.

Color and sweetness are their main characteristics. It seems like there is a total turn around. If you wanted one of the older long varieties, you would have to look long and far.

To make a good choice, first of all look for a clean attractive color. It should show no soft spots, no sign of decay, browning, or an off color. It should also be solid. A good method to get a ripe melon is to look for a creamy yellowish white bottom. That is a good indication.

This is peak season for watermelon. You are most likely to pick a winner from now to mid-August. Shipments change to another area moving to South Carolina. You will find a more solid melon and flesh from that area. It will not have the sweetness of the South. But, the varieties will look the same.

Watermelons do not ripen once they are picked. Cantaloupes ripen if you leave them out at room temperature. Honey Dews will not ripen. But watermelons, once they are picked, that's it! They will be either good or bad.

A good tip is to stick to the steady old time brands. King of the West for Honey Dews is an old standby. Pony Boy is another good brand. Remember, a Honey Dew must give a bit to the gentle pressure of your hand.

The best Honey Dews of the season are shipped in mid-July through the end of August. If you don't get a good one in that period, you are playing Russian roulette with other choices.

Beginning in August, you will find all kinds of melons: Striped melons, casabas, Galias, golden yellow melons, and many others. These melons vary in taste. You should check with your produce advisor on what to expect. There are many surprises. If you are curious enough it will be worth the challenge.

The best melon of them all is the Cranshaw melon which is one half cantaloupe and one half Honey Dew. It has truly great taste that you can never duplicate. That's when it's ripe, of course. Be sure it has changing golden green color; not just a solid green.

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