Once the cracks circle the stem and the stem looks shriveled, the melon will break off with a slight twist. If more than light effort is needed to remove from the vine, it is not ripe.
Harvest smooth-skinned muskmelons—which include honeydew, Crenshaw, and casaba–when they turn cream-colored. The blossom end will give slightly when pressed, and the fruit will readily separate from the stem.
Harvest net-skinned cantaloupe when the rind netting changes from gray-green to creamy and the background turns golden. The fruit will have a sweet-musky aroma, and the stem will slip easily from the fruit.
Harvest watermelon when the ground spot–where the melon rests on the ground–turns a creamy yellow and the stem turns brown and begins to curl.
Melons on the same vine typically ripen over a short period of time. As soon as the first melon is ripe, the others will come to harvest within 3 to 4 weeks.
After the first melon is harvested, cut back on watering—just enough to keep the vines from wilting; this will concentrate sugars in the fruit.
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