Summer’s here, and with it comes plenty to love in North Carolina. From coastal road trips to fireflies at night, to summer sunsets promising “sailor’s delight,” summer treats can seem endless in the Tar Heel state. But one of North Carolina’s most delicious summer traditions is watermelon season!
Whether you’ve loved this fruit since childhood or only recently jumped on the watermelon wagon, nothing beats a sweet slice of North Carolina watermelon on a hot summer afternoon. North Carolina is the 9th-largest producer of watermelon in the US, with watermelon season stretching from March through August, so North Carolina summers mean a watermelon abundance!
So, where should you look for the most delicious watermelons the season has to offer? How do you pick the juiciest ripe watermelon? Do you eat them raw or use them to make summer treats? And how far can you spit a watermelon seed, anyway? Let’s have a look at how to make the most of North Carolina’s watermelon season.
First things first: Pick your melon!
Whether you’re stocking up for a festive barbecue or just grabbing a treat to enjoy on your own, you might need to be shown the ropes (or should we say vines?) when it comes time to pick a watermelon.
Now, whether you’re getting your watermelon from your nearest grocery store, a North Carolina farmer’s market like the weekly market at Indigo Farms on Calabash, or picking one straight from the vine at a pick-your-own site like the one at Pressley Farms in Hendersonville, you’ll need to know what to look for. After all, you want a watermelon that’s as sweet and juicy as the season has to offer!
When you’re choosing a watermelon, look for a heavy melon with a uniform shape; this is a sign of ripeness. You should also check the melon’s “field spot,” which is the lighter patch where it was less exposed to sunlight as it grew. A pale white field spot means a less flavorful melon, while a golden orange spot means a sweeter melon full of flavor.
Finally, while a melon with a shiny rind may look pretty, don’t pick it, as it’s not ripe yet; the darker, duller rinds mean the melon is ripe and ready to eat!
What to do with a watermelon abundance?
Surely the thing to do with a watermelon is eat it, right? Well, yes, but there’s more than one way to enjoy this sweet summer fruit!
While fresh watermelon is delicious raw, it can also be prepared into sweet treats, refreshing drinks, and savory snacks. For a healthy summer dinner, watermelon feta salad showcases the bright, sweet watermelon flavor against the salty tanginess of feta, along with some spices. If you prefer your melon sweet, a watermelon popsicle or a watermelon happy-hour cocktail might be just the ticket.
Finally, if you want to try a taste of history, watermelon rind can be pickled for a tangy relish that’s been served in the southern United States for centuries. While it might not have the sweet, refreshing flavor we usually associate with watermelon, it’s a tasty treat and a bite of history all its own. Not only that, but pickling is a preserving method, meaning you can enjoy this watermelon-based treat well after the season ends.
Try these watermelon traditions—or start your own!
If you’re a fan of watermelon season, you might already have your own traditions around picking, preparing, and eating watermelons every summer. Seed-spitting contests are popular among people of all ages, with the world record for farthest seed spit standing at over 75 feet!
While National Watermelon Seed Spitting Week originated in Texas—it runs from June 27-30— North Carolina celebrates watermelons in August, and has for nearly 40 years! Murfreesboro is home to an annual watermelon festival that celebrates its 38th year in 2023 and is full of fun watermelon-themed activities for North Carolinians of all ages.
Whether you’re attending watermelon events or not, feel free to start your own watermelon traditions at home! Whether it’s a special watermelon recipe, picking your own melons at a local farm, or trying to grow your own watermelons from seeds, there are plenty of ways you and your family can enjoy one of summer’s most delicious fruits. And while “Summerween” might be an invention of the cartoon series Gravity Falls, why not try carving your own watermelon jack-o-melon lantern? It may not be spooky, but it can make you smile!
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled this month that Justice Phil Berger Jr. did not have to recuse himself from the rehearing of the Leandro...
Nearly two years after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, another court is using that ruling to go after one of the anti-abortion right’s...
Most North Carolinians know the story of Sir Walter Raleigh — or if they don’t, they can most likely identify the namesake of the state capital. As...
Rhiannon Giddens is more than the banjo player in a Beyonce song. Here’s why the NC-raised musician is so special.
The Grammy-winning, Greensboro-born musician was re-introduced to a wider audience in Beyonce’s new country song. But her two decades of recorded...