Old Man Wisdom on How to Pick a Watermelon

Lauren Drewes Daniels
Holland, Texas, (no relation to Derek) is a tiny town just a little east of the smack dab middle of our slightly asymmetrical state. It's a patch of dirt and old buildings with a speed zone on Highway 95 south of Waco. For a decade or so I've blazed a regular trail through it (one speeding ticket to show) and for the past few years there's been a watermelon purveyor on the side of the road next to an abandoned shack. They sell veggies, but most noticeably watermelons by the truckload. Occasionally they have canned goods, like the pickled jalapeños last week.

Don and Georgia Marshall retired a few years ago and set up this farm stand to earn a little extra spending money. Once a week they drive down to the town of Dilley in South Texas (Frio County) to pick up watermelons. This early in the season, South Texas watermelons are ready to harvest, but not yet in Central Texas.

Looking for sage farm advice, I asked Mr. Marshall how to choose a good watermelon.

He snapped at me from his lawn chair, "You cain't!"

What's that?

"You cain't pick a good one. There's no way to tell because there are too many different kinds," Marshall said, all businesslike and a little grumpy.

I think he's sort of pulling my chain, or has a slight onery disposition. Mrs. Marshall's smile indicates the latter.

He eventually gets up and slowly walks over to the watermelon table and explains a bit about the history of watermelons, how the older generation only wants black diamonds with the seeds, because to them watermelons should have seeds. But, Texas A&M developed a seedless watermelon and that's what the younger generation wants now.

Basically, he told me, it's all about the sound and feel when you slap a watermelon -- it should sound hollow inside. He had one watermelon separated from the others, like it was sitting in time out, because it sounded thick and solid when slapped.

We then all lightly slapped each melon and listened closely.

Marshall also looks for a green stem because it indicates it was recently plucked from the vine.

Marshall told me that last year he got a crop of orange meat watermelons that were some of the best he'd ever had. A couple from Dallas drives through about once a week and bought one of the orange meat and now they make a point to pick some up every time they drive through -- although he hasn't seen any of the orange meat yet this season.

Or, maybe he's pulling my chain. I cain't tell.

I also talked to a produce manager at Central Market about picking out watermelons. Marty Mika has several criteria: dark green, a yellow side which indicates the melon has been sitting in the field longer allowing the sun to bring out the sugar and also a brown stem as opposed to the green stem.

When asked about a brown stem, Mika said it's indicative that the melon has had more time in the sun to get sweeter.

Location Info

Central Market

5750 E. Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

WTF would you go to this place? As a rule of thumb (and I've spent a lot of time Temple!), anything east of Salado is called "the ratlands", a good, flat place to construct a prison-or a melon stand. Salado....greatness, go to the spring, or make em show you the cave underneath the Old Salado Inn. 


I grew up in East Texas and my ass hole Grandpa grew a shit ton of watermelons which I had to pick. We would take the melons to the Dallas Farmers Market about once or twice a week during the summer. I agree with both of choosing techniques above, it’s kind of like choosing a tomato or an avocado. If you want a watermelon ready to eat pick one with a brown steam if you would like to hang on a couple days take the green steam. Never take one that sounds thick and full when slapping it that bad boy will be over ripe. Nothing better than cutting open a nice ripe watermelon early in the morning at about 5:00 right in the field for breakfast.

suck through a straw
suck through a straw

Drill a hole about the size of a quarter in the middle of a seedless watermelon side (seeded watermelons soak up the alcohol).... insert bottle of Everclear and empty (pint if small or a fifth if a bigun.....insert plug you cut out back in and place in cooler suifficient to cover with 2 bags of ice.  Let the two mingle overnight and next day....sweet East Texas watermelon wine! Drink responsibly and do not drive, ski, jestski, boat or anything that requires steering and stay away from climbing oil derricks or riding oil derrick pumps.

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

Grape Juice??? Yuck!!!! Just add salt to that melon and commence to eatin'.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

yeah, but give me the guy who says "cain't"

Whitney Filloon
Whitney Filloon

Awesome piece!  Mmm, watermelon.  I've been pureeing it to make pitchers of punch with gin and rosemary... tastes like summer in a glass.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

I picked watermelons one really effing hot East Texas summer..about a hundred years ago...loading them into the refrigerated semi trailer was actually worse than working under the Sun.  10-15 guys passing them back and forth from the back of the truck to the front and then stack them 6-7 foot high.  The combination of heat and humidity was amazing.  Methinks I'll arrange a summer job for my kiddoes when they turn 13 or so, bet they'll get after their schoolwork.

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