One day while purchasing watermelons, I saw a man land a good, hard thump on one — first time I’ve seen anyone do that other than us back-wood, country folks. When I impulsively thumped one, I asked myself, "What in the world are you doing?" My honest answer was, "I have no idea."
As I glanced at the stranger thumpin’ that melon, I also wondered if he knew why he thumped it. He probably didn't, because these days most watermelon buyers are clueless as to why they thump 'em. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that watermelon thumpin’ is akin to belonging to a secret society. It's a sign that the "thumpers" know something that "non-thumpers" don't — which they probably don't, but their ego makes them think they do.
I have no idea when watermelon thumpin' started, but I do know that I saw it way back when I was a kid. I saw my dad and other farmers thump them in their patches. A thumped watermelon supposedly emits a certain sound and a certain feel to the finger. By the thump, you can determine if a melon is ripe, ready to pull, and ready to eat. Do you really believe that? Well, I don't ... not really. Those old, experienced, country farmers may know what they're doing, but I have no idea. Over the years, I simply picked up the habit.
When people thump 'em in the store, they're listening for that certain sound that they think indicates the melon is a prize pick. Since I don’t know what the “sound “ sounds like and what the “feel” feels like, instead of thumpin’ ‘em, I do several things.
First, I look the watermelon over real good. I do know this much: if a watermelon has a dark, yellowish-brown coloration on one side, it means that it laid in the field for a good little spell ... perhaps too long. If it did, it could be overripe, or in some extreme cases, just right for eating. It all depends. Actually, that one is the kind I prefer over the dark green ones. To me, those are not ripe enough to be deliciously good and sweet. Perhaps it's just tradition, but I do like to see a little yellow on the ones I buy.
Next, I simply press the watermelon on all sides. If there is a soft spot, even on a dark green one, it usually means that the melon was dropped and bruised. It can be eaten, but not that part.
Finally, if I thump the fruit, it's simply out of habit and because it is something that I want to do. I have no earthly idea what I'm looking for. So, inexperienced me, I just look at a melon and decide if it's the one I want to buy, though I will seldom buy a melon that is all green. To me, they are not as ripe, nor are they as sweet as the ones with the light yellow patch on 'em. The patch indicates that at least it did mostly ripen on the vine. The solid green ones may indicate that they didn't stay in the field long enough. I pass on those.
I'm a country girl and should have my "thump" down pat, but I don't, so if you ever see me thumping a watermelon, just know that I haven’t the foggiest idea what I'm doing. Tell me to buy the watermelon, take it home, and give it a try. If that one is a dud, maybe with the next one I'll hit the jackpot.
Photo by Fotolia/rozakov