The Only Way To Store Whole Watermelon, According to Farmers

How to keep your watermelon fresh and sweet.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

Growing up on a farm, I was lucky to have access to just-picked fruits and veggies at the peak of ripeness. And though I loved munching on sweet and tender carrots in the early summer and extra juicy Sun Gold cherry tomatoes in July, nothing ever topped a chilled slice of watermelon (sometimes followed by a seed-spitting contest) on a hot, humid late summer day.

No longer on the farm, I still make the journey to the farmer's market when the season rolls around to seek out the perfect watermelon. I look for one that’s heavy for its size but not too heavy to lug back to my apartment. Once it’s home and chilled, I do my best not to eat it all in one sitting, savoring the fruit one wedge at a time.

The last slice is never as sweet and delicious as the first one, which has me wondering: Am I keeping my watermelon past its prime? Hoping to get the most out of melon season this year, I checked in with my parents, who are both farmers, Lee and Ingrid Abraham, as well as Julie Stefanski, MEd, RDN, LDN, FAND, and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to learn how to keep my fruit as fresh and delicious as possible.

“Fruits and vegetables that grow well in hot weather typically don’t like to be refrigerated, Ingrid told me, citing other summer crops like tomatoes. The same is true of watermelon, which she suggested storing at room temperature in a cool spot out of the sun. Stefanski agreed, adding that when kept in the refrigerator, “the flavor, texture, and some of the nutritive value will begin to deteriorate.”

She explained that watermelons contain lycopene, a carotenoid (aka a pigment produced by plants) that can help fight cell damage in our bodies. A study comparing watermelons held at 70°F, 55°F, and 41°F found that the fruits stored at room temperature contained the highest levels of lycopene.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

If stored in a cool dry spot away from direct sunlight, Lee told me a whole watermelon should keep for one week, and could last two to three weeks if refrigerated (though it’s not recommended).

What he did recommend was eating it ASAP because the closer it is to its harvest date, the better it will taste. If you’re a chilled watermelon lover, don’t fret; there’s no harm in refrigerating it for a couple of hours to get it nice and cold.

Ingrid’s tip: utilize nature’s wrapper, the rind! Cutting slices off of a watermelon as needed helps maintain its natural moisture barrier and keeps the fruit inside fresher for longer.

If you do opt for cubes, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where Stefanski says they should maintain their freshness for three to four days. She reminded me that like any fresh produce, if your watermelon “has visible mold, a slimy texture, or tastes ‘fizzy’ when eating, then it is best to add it to your compost bin."

Though the above tips apply to all sorts of melons, Stefanski noted that storage may vary depending on rind thickness, ripeness, and storage conditions. Always inspect your fruit and give it a sniff to check for any off odors.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.