(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"It seems like the hotter it gets, the more people want a watermelon," said Barbara Carpenter of Rick James Watermelons.
While Monday wasn't the busiest day of watermelon season, which began in early July, it was a steady day for selling the giant fruit.
"Pick me out a good, ripe one," Pepper Newton of Sikeston told Carpenter.
The lighter in color they are, the riper they are, Carpenter replied, patting a watermelon. Also when patted, the hollower the sound, the riper the watermelon, she explained.
After she was given instruction, Newton began patting several different watermelons, listening for the "hollow" sound.
"See this one is thuddy," Carpenter said as she pounded on a watermelon. "It's not hollow. You want it to sound empty and have an 'echo' sound."
Meanwhile, other watermelon hunters were wanting Carpenter to pick them a "good, ripe one."
"It's a guessing game when it comes to picking a ripe watermelon, Carpenter admitted.
One of the biggest mistakes watermelon lovers make is that they want to pick the greenest watermelon, Carpenter said.
"They think if it looks bad, then it will be bad. And bigger is not better," she added.
People will look at the stem or smell a watermelon to see if it's ripe, but that doesn't work, Carpenter said.
"If people would just listen to me, they could pick a good one out," Carpenter said.
Beggs Melon Co. in Blodgett has also been busy during the watermelon season. Currently Beggs Melon Co. raises approximately 200 acres of melons. They sell most of them through wholesale. Last season they sold over 140 truckloads.
"The season's gone pretty good," said Donnie Beggs, owner of Beggs Melon Co. "We had too much cool weather early so we're having to let the melons stay out longer than usual. Instead of picking them every seven days, we pick them about every 10 days."
Beggs offers several varieties of watermelons including Stars and Stripes, Star Bright, Sentinal and Daytona.
"The melon demand is good. Everybody had a short crop so the demand is high for watermelons," Beggs explained.
Customers who wandered to Rick James Watermelons had three types of watermelon to choose from on Monday. They were Jubilee, which can be round or oblong; Crimson Sweet, which is oblong; and Black Diamond, a popular, sweet watermelon.
"We did have 'yellow meat watermelon' -- and we sold out of those," Carpenter recalled. "For some reason, everybody wanted the yellow meats this year. They're a little sweeter than the red meat melons."
While watermelons are a tasty, summer treat, they can also make a good centerpiece, Newton said. "My mom used to cut the watermelon in half and cut jagged edges. Then she'd use a scoop and make watermelon balls or put other fruit in the shell," she noted.
Watermelon season generally lasts until the second week of September, Carpenter said. But for Beggs, the melon season ends, when they run out of watermelons to sell, he said.
And after picking out her watermelon amongst hundreds of others, Newton was finally on her way to enjoy the melon she'd purchased.
"I just felt like eating a watermelon today," Newton said simply. "On a hot day, there's nothing like eating a juicy watermelon."