How to pick the perfect N.C. watermelon

From slices and seed-spitting contests to watermelon salsa and pickled rinds, no matter how you enjoy watermelon there’s no denying it’s a big part of the summer season. North Carolina is the eighth-largest producer of watermelons in the nation, and more than 249 million pounds of watermelon were grown in the state in 2012. In other words, it should be easy to find fresh, local watermelons wherever you are in the state.

Once you find the perfect location to buy your watermelon, it’s important to know how to pick out the perfect melon. Nick Augostini, horticulture marketing specialist with the department, offers some tips from the National Watermelon Promotion Board in the video below:

1. Look the watermelon over: You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents.

2. Lift it up: The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92 percent water and most of the weight is water.

3. Turn it over: The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

There are plenty of opportunities to practice these tips in July and August. The department will host a series of watermelon days at the four state-operated farmers markets in Charlotte, Asheville, Raleigh and Colfax. Each event includes free watermelon slices and a visit from the N.C. Watermelon Queen. North Carolina also has three watermelon festivals in Fair Bluff, Murfreesboro and Winterville. The festivals have a variety of attractions, including largest-watermelon contests, road races and concerts. Click the links below to find out more information about each event.

July 12: Watermelon Day, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, Charlotte

July 19: Watermelon Day, WNC Farmers Market, Asheville

July 19-20: N.C. Watermelon Festival in Fair Bluff, NC

July 31-Aug. 3: N.C. Watermelon Festival at Murfreesboro

Aug. 1: Watermelon Day, State Farmers Market, Raleigh

Aug. 2: Watermelon Day, Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax

Aug. 22: Winterville Watermelon Festival, Winterville

If you need help finding N.C. watermelons, check out www.ncfarmfresh.com, where you can search for farmers markets, roadside stands and pick-your-own farms across the state.

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