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Thump a watermelon, smell a cantaloupe

June 29, 1999

A member of our staff recently asked how to pick the freshest produce. This person found watermelon to be particularly difficult, buying five from three different stores one summer and finding that all were tasteless.

So how do you pick a watermelon or cantaloupe?

There are a couple of "old wives' " ways of telling if a watermelon is ready to eat, according to Gary Fay of Dave's Wholesale Produce in Hagerstown.

One way is to lay a broom straw on the watermelon. If the straw turns, the melon is ripe.

"That never worked for me," Fay says.

He recommends thumping the watermelon. If the result is a nice, hollow sound, the watermelon is ripe. If it's a really dull thud, it's overripe.

If the watermelon is a little soft when you push on it, it's likely to be mushy inside, according to Fay.

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The ripeness of local and Eastern Shore cantaloupes can be detected with your nose. A sweet smell indicates that it's time to eat. This approach doesn't work with Western 'loupes, according to Fay. If the cantaloupe is soft, it probably will be mushy.

Fay and his wife, Sharon, have owned Dave's Wholesale Produce since 1978. Her father started it 36 years ago.

That's a lot of knowing-when-the-melon-is-ripe experience. Fay's nose knows.

- Kate Coleman, Staff Writer

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