EXPLORING WHEN AND HOW TO HARVEST WATERMELON
A sweet mouth-watering luscious watermelon is a remarkable sight in the daunting summers! Watermelon (Citrullus Lanatus) is a flowering plant. It is a part of the Cucurbitaceae family. Having its origin in Africa, people around the globe cultivate it today in favorable climates. Currently, there are more than 1000 available varieties of watermelon.
You can eat the fruit raw or even after making a pickle from it. The skin of the fruit is also consumable. You can consume the seeds of the watermelon too. They comprise of a number of nutrients. You can fry them before eating. They give oil, you can mill them with livestock feeds as well.
The healthy fruit comprises 92 per cent of water. It is a storehouse of many nutrients such as vitamins A, B 6 and C, zinc, magnesium, amino acids, lycopene, and antioxidants. It is a perfect fruit for a diet. It has low calories and sodium levels. It is fat-free making it an absolute favourite for those who are dieting!
Many think that watermelon is only available in red colour. This assumption is a delusion. Watermelons are available in a variety of colours such as yellow, green, white, and orange.
Planters around the world mainly plant four varieties of watermelon- Seedless, picnic, icebox, and yellow/orange watermelons. Let us know about these variants in brief before we move ahead to the harvesting part.
1)Seedless Watermelons: They have very small underdeveloped seeds. Some examples are the Queen of heart and Trio.
2)Picnic Watermelons: These are the round melons having red flesh with a dark green rind. A few examples are Charleston grey and jubilee.
3) Icebox Watermelon: As the name suggests, these are tiny melons enough for just a single person. Some of the varieties are Sugar baby and tiger baby.
4)Yellow/ Orange Watermelons: Unlike picnic melons, they do not have red flesh. They have an orangish or yellowish flesh. They are round. A few examples are Desert king and yellow baby.
Relax, you can take a sigh of relief! They all have the same harvest procedure and indicators to determine the time. It is essential to perform all the steps of production well if you want sweet and delicious watermelons. Apart from correct plantation and care, it is quite necessary for the growers to pay attention to the harvesting too!
There are two primary questions in every grower’s mind before they go for harvesting;
1) When to Harvest
2)How to Harvest
So, let us find out the answers to these to get a perfect treat in the face of sweet and luscious watermelons!
WHEN TO HARVEST WATERMELON
Deciding the right time to harvest is an integral part of the harvesting process of any crop. In the case of Watermelon too, it is crucial to know how to determine the correct time to harvest.
So, let us look at the various maturity signs, right time, and importance in case of harvesting watermelons.
There are several signs that show that the watermelons are ripe. Some of them are Primary indicators and others are secondary in nature.
So, let us discuss them in detail.
There are some main symbols of a ripe crop. In case of watermelon crop, these include the curled tendrils, the field spot, the toughness of the base and its colour. Let us learn more about these indicators.
The foremost technique to know whether the watermelon is ripe or not is by checking the curly tendrils on the stem. When the plant matures, the tendrils start to dry and wither. They become brown.
If it is green, there is much time to harvest. If it is half-dead, the watermelon has certainly attained its maturity. If it is completely dead, do not delay in harvesting, the crop is overripe.
So, keep a check on the tendrils. If they tend to show the desired characteristics, go for harvesting!
2) Field spot
The field spot made by fruit also shows that it is fully ripe. It is also known as a patch or a ground spot. A ground spot appears where the fruit is resting on the ground. The ground spot is of different colours in case of the varieties of melon. The field spot will change from white to dark yellow when it is ready to harvest.
Check the spots below the watermelon, if they appear, go for harvesting after checking the other signs, else, it is better to wait!
The fruit may get damaged too if you knock it very hard. So, remember to be soft and gentle.
3)The Hardness of Blossom End
Check the toughness of the blossom end. It is opposite to the stem end. The outer layer of the fruit must be hard enough to resist pressing with the hands.
Check the crop by trying to puncture the skin of the fruit with hands. If the outer layer has attained the required hardness, it shows that the fruit is fully ripe. If you can puncture the blossom end, it means the crop is overripe.
One of the signs of maturity is the change in the colour of the fruit. Various variants show some maturity colour. The picnic watermelon gets dark green colour with some yellow lines running over it. Check the fruits for the colour change. If the desired colour develops, it shows that the crop is ready to harvest. If not, it is better to wait for harvesting.
Apart from the main signs, there are a few additional indicators which may alarm us that the harvest time is near. These include the hollow sound, the dull surface, sweet smell, and the size of the fruit along with the prescribed date of harvest. Let us discuss them further in particular.
1)Sound of the fruit
When you tap the fruits lightly, they sound hollow and lower-pitched if they are mature. It is a good sign that the crop is ripe. Take a watermelon and tap it gently to hear if it produces the deep hollow sound. If you get a lower-pitched sound, it is better to let the crop mature for a few more days.
It would be better if you explore online or ask someone to demonstrate how a mature watermelon sounds. Record the sound of a ripe watermelon using a phone or a recorder for future purposes.
2)Appearance and Juiciness of the fruit
The watermelon has a dull appearance when they fully ripen. A shiny skin shows that you should allow the plant to mature for more time. So, keep an eye over the surface of the fruits to know more about the harvest time.
Apart from the appearance, you can know whether the crop is mature or not by conducting a squeezing test. Gently squeeze the watermelon to see if it gives off something.
Be careful, do not cause any harm to the yield while doing this test. If the watermelon gives some juice, be ready for harvest since the crop is mature now.
3) Size of the Watermelon
Hold your focus on the size of the fruit. When they stop growing any further, it is time to harvest them. Harvesting very small-sized melons is not a good idea.
However, the size of the watermelon depends upon a variety of factors like weather and soil. Depending on these factors, they can attain a length between 20 to 50 centimetres.
4)The Date on the Seed Packet
Watermelons germinate from seeds. Another way to get a rough estimate of the harvest date is to check the seed packet from which the watermelon crop is growing. If the seed packet is not available, contact a seed supplier to know about the specified dates of maturity depending on the variety.
The fruits will not be ready at the exact mentioned time. The maturity time depends upon other factors like climate, growing style and soil too. The date gives an idea about the average harvest time. The planters must be ready to harvest once the maturity date is near.
The smell of watermelon can help to know when the fruit is ripe. Go closer to the watermelon and inhale a deep breath. There will be a sweet fragrance in case of a ripe watermelon.
In case of a plantation on a large scale, it would be difficult to conduct a smell test since the smells around the field would mix and it would be tough to determine if the chosen watermelon is ready to pick or not.
NOTE: Remember these are just secondary indicators, do not harvest completely on their basis. Check for the primary signs. They work just like an alarm to let growers know the harvest time is near.
IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING WHEN TO HARVEST WATERMELON
It is necessary to know when it is the right time to pick watermelons from the plants. The primary reason is that once you pick the watermelon, it cannot ripen any further. The sweetness of the fruit does not increase after you harvest the crop!
Thus, to get the best taste of the watermelons it is essential to know the right time to harvest. In both the cases of early and late harvesting, the growers are at a loss. Let us see how;
If you harvest the watermelons before maturity, they have not developed their sweet taste completely. The fruits will not be as delicious and luscious as they could be on attaining maturity.
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In case you harvest late, the watermelon would be overripe. The taste may alter. The watermelon would not have the required stiffness; it may be very mushy.
Also, a late harvest makes the crop more susceptible to the attack of pests and microorganisms.
So, it is advisable to harvest on time!
TIPS FOR SWEET WATERMELONS
Everybody loves the perfect sweet taste in watermelon. The taste depends on a lot of factors such as area and growing conditions. Still, you can get the most of the sweetness in your watermelons by controlling the irrigation before harvesting.
Lower the watering a week before the harvest. Remember to provide sufficient water to prevent the vines from wilting. In case you decrease the water supply, the sugars in the watermelon concentrate. Thus, increasing the sweetness level.
In case you do the opposite and keep giving high amounts of water to the melon just before harvesting, the sweetness may decrease.
EXTRA KNOWLEDGE TO HARVEST WATERMELON
- The majority of the varieties of watermelon take around 80 to 90 days from the date of sowing to be ready for harvest.
- In cool summers slow down the ripening process of the watermelon. Thus, the number of days to be ready for harvest increases.
HOW TO HARVEST WATERMELON
After deciding to go to harvesting, it is essential to know the correct method to harvest. Harvesting watermelons is a very easy task. You only need a sharp knife for the purpose.
Just hold the watermelon and cut the stem using a garden lopper or sharp knife close to the fruit. It is advisable to handle watermelons with great care to avoid any damage or bruises.
Watermelons are a perishable fruit. They have a less shelf life. You can preserve almost all the varieties of watermelon for a maximum of one month.
A cool and shady spot is desirable for the storing of watermelons. You can also put them on ice to preserve them. Some people advise cooling watermelon promptly once the harvest is over so that the field heat can vanish. Their shelf life also increases due to immediate cooling.
If you keep the watermelons in the refrigerator, they will keep for just 2 to 4 days. Watermelons decay easily if you store them below 50° F (10° C) for more than a few days. We should store watermelons at room temperature for better storage. They would stay fresh for about 10 to 14 days at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
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If you want to store cut watermelon, it is advisable to wrap it tightly and then store it in the refrigerator. It will prevail to be fresh for approximately four days.
Experts recommend that we should never store watermelons near apples or tomatoes. They induce ethylene gas. It causes thinning and softening of watermelon rinds. If the rind becomes weak, the watermelons will fall prey to the microorganisms and get spoilt.