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Where to buy really good watermelon?

Is it possible to buy good watermelon in SoCal??? I've been living here for almost 20 years. In all that time I don't think I've ever had really good watermelon. All the watermelon I've had has had very little flavor, tasting watered down (no pun intended).

It must be possible to find some fruit with a strong, intense flavor. Where should I look?

Thanks!

David

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    1. re: OCAnn

      I have gotten lots of good watermelon in the last three weeks at Jon's priced at 3 pounds for a dollar. I can't believe how good it has been. I do not buy the biggest ones but rather the medium sized and had luck every time.

        1. re: unfrostedpoptart

          It's a local grocery chain, predominantly in west & north LA.

          1. re: OCAnn

            there's one in westminster as well

      1. re: OCAnn

        I agree. I've had really good luck with the (two-to-a-pack) small watermelons at Costco. They've been terrific. Just got back from the Hollywood Farmers Market...didn't see any there.

      2. Folks from Texas that I know make the same complaint. I know that the huge disc-rupturing watermelons that are knee-deep in black seeds are as scarce as $3.50 a gallon gas. I just tried one that was from a local Latino supermarket (thinking that I might luck out since fruit is revered in this community) - the seedless variety that even elderly ladies can carry with little effort - and it was just as you described. I'm not constantly on the hunt for great watermelons but I would think your best bet would be a farmers market in the depth of summer...

        6 Replies
        1. re: bulavinaka

          Is part of the problem the move to "seedless" watermelons? Do these inherently have less flavor? Or is it the tendency to pick fruit to early, before all the sugar develops?

          1. re: unfrostedpoptart

            I'm no expert on watermelons - I'm relatively casual about them, but I know folks from Texas and parts of the South who declare that watermelons in SoCal truly suck. I don't know if something is lost in the move to seedless - many fruit die-hards will tell you that seedless versions of fruit (like thompson seedless grapes vs. "real" grapes) lack dimension in their flavor. Maybe something is lost in the mutative process of breeding out the seeds. Also, different varieties of other fruits have different characteristics - early-season stone fruits versus mid- to late-season varieties are a classic example of how qualitatively different they can be. Strawberries vary considerably by variety - Gaviotas are sweeter, Seascapes have more fragrance and flavor. I am sure watermelons are the same. Another issue is culture. If you're growing watermelons in bright sun and 100 degree weather - a typical Texas summer - that's going to make watermelons sing. The seeds do add some flavor and of course mouthfeel to the eating experience, so maybe that has something to do with it. And I don't think it's because they are picked too early because you can get truly sweet melons now that seem to have been bred to be nothing but sweet. I suspect that it's a any combination of these factors.

            I am sure that today's consumer culture has changed the demand for watermelon. Toting home a 45-pounder, slicing it up and having a family of eight polishing off the whole watermelon is a thing of the past. Also, seeds are always disdained by the average consumer. Couple that with the notion that sweet is more important than taste, and you'll end up with melons that are smaller for easier transport, storage and sized for smaller families and couples; lacking seeds so every bite off the melon is nothing but juice and pulp, and sugary sweet to placate the masses.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              I stopped at the new Whole Foods in Tustin on the way home. Amazing market (and very high prices)! They had organic seedless for $.99/lb, organic regular for $.69/lb and generic for $.49/lb. I went for the $.69/lb.

              Well, the inside is very nice and bright red, but it's not very sweet and doesn't have much flavor :( Maybe I'll just fill it with vodka :^)

              There's a Costco in the same center. I'll try and stop there in the next couple of days and see what they've got.

              I love living in SoCal - been here for 19 years - but the produce was so much better in New York and New England.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                Seedless fruits are not bred. Its impossible to naturally produce fruit without seeds. Instead, before the plant flowers, they spray it with a hormone that induces fruit growth without seeds.

                1. re: AndyGanil

                  My naval orange tree in the backyard produces seedless fruit. I don't spray anything on it. But at the same time, I can see your line of reason.

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    ah, reproduction- always fascinating and bewildering. in the case of the navel orange, it's not hormonal derange, the navel orange is seedless due to an historic 19th c. mutation ...the navel oranges we eat today are genetically identical to that original mutant orange - essentially you're eating clones. And yes, without seeds our little navel buddy has no way to reproduce naturally, so cuttings (with buds) are grafted onto another tree's trunk and roots as its "host".

          2. for much of last summer, the small (bowling ball sized) melons with the brand name of DULCINEA were very good.
            haven't had any good melons so far this year.

            4 Replies
            1. re: westsidegal

              I've relied on this brand for consistency as well. Firm sweet f;lesh every time, but again it could be what bulavinaka mentioned upthread, in that they are grown for sweetness. No worries for me, at least one melon is polished off in one sitting. I do miss the melons of the south though.

              1. re: westsidegal

                I picked up a couple of these at Costco last week. Pale flesh, almost zero flavor or sweetness:(

                I think I'll wait until July and then try a local produce farm (www.tanakafarms.com).

                1. re: unfrostedpoptart

                  We've had very similar luck lately with our past two watermelons. We were gifted once of those dolce-type watermelons from a friend who realized she had one too many and was heading out of town. Short on taste, not bad on sweetness, but not what I would consider even close to sit-on-the-porch-and-slurp quality. When we get melons like this, I think of them more like tofu, where they are better as bases for additions of flavor, so we diced it up, added some of this and that, and enjoyed it that way...

                2. re: westsidegal

                  Definitely a modern product, but some of the best watermelon I've ever had - it was a couple seasons ago.

                3. 99 Ranch Market. Good yellow watermelon too!

                  1. believe it or not...Whole Foods has delicious organic watermelon on sale now.
                    I forgot the price...but its really good!!!!

                    1. kinda on a side note, I was "taught" to pick watermelon by thier size/wieght ratio. If you have two melons of the same size, pick the "heavier" one. has more juice and sugar in it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AteTooMuch

                        Another sign of a sweet watermelon is when you see the whitish thread-like veins running through the flesh. If you're lucky enough to shop at a store where the produce dept still sells halves and quarters of melons, you can examine those. Some folks will mistake this for a watermelon being very fibrous. I learned this from, of course, a Texan...

                      2. I got a good one from Fresh & Easy right before Memorial Day. They were the large ones that were pretty much seedless, I think from Mexico.

                        I agree that those little Dulcinea watermelons are usually quite good, and yes it is a bit early in the season.

                        1. we've had good luck at Trader Joe's as well as Costco!

                          1. I am also waiting for the yellow watermelons to come in. I find them flavorful, different than red, but very tasty.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: justagthing

                              Find JL's posting above - I saw the yellows at 99 Ranch as well. They aren't cheap - I think .89/lb...

                            2. For the past several years, I've had really great watermelons with deep winy flavor from Chino Farms, down in Rancho Santa Fe. It's a bit far, but well worth the drive when melons are peaking in August.

                              And I concur that the Dulcinea brand of supermarket watermelons is fairly sweet and can't be beat for price when they're on sale.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: zinFAN

                                I'm glad to see Chino Farm mentioned. They have numerous watermelon styles -- some sweet, some dense, some with orange flesh, etc. -- but all interesting and most of them delicious.

                                Many of their other melons are also fantastic, especially the French melon that looks like a cantaloupe with green stripes. Despite what they tell me, I always let it sit out for a couple of days.

                                On average, the other produce is merely the best I've ever had, far better than even the finest produce in grocery stores.

                              2. The watermelons I've had have been great this year. I look for the part of the skin that was resting on the ground (that white area). I make sure this area is at least a creamy light yellow color and it hasn't failed me yet.

                                I've had really good watermelons from the Korean market and they're either giving them away free with $20 purchase or they're on sale for some ridiculous price, like 20 lbs for a dollar.

                                1. my grandfather was an agriculturalist from Arizona and ran a teaching farm in El Cajon 70 years ago...when seedless first came on the market, we all complained, and would head to the Ortega Hwy. stands to buy the seeded variety. anyway, Agronomy 101, in his simplest explanation...the primary purpose of fruit is reproduction of the species...and one purpose of the flesh of the fruit is to support the growth of the seed, this requires sugar production...also that the seeds themselves produce sugar...whatever the enzyme/chemical connection is, the two parts ultimately contribute to a sweeter melon...altho seedless melons actually have seeds, they are immature seeds. in a seeded watermelon, the seeds are hard, black and mature,- have developed a lot of sugar and also the fruit flesh has been allowed to contribute its part to making a specimen worthy of maximizing it's reproductive potential, not to mention just tasting good!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Local

                                    Fantastic explanation and great memories... Thanks!

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Grandfather had an emerald thumb; mine is a bit chlorotic but learned a lot about hort. and especially fruit production. Samse and i both were taught the same method for choosing a melon. During the late 70's, another good place to get fresh melon, generally at a five-finger discount, was at an unfenced lot located along the road between Lake Perris and 60 fwy, ...after a day of rock climbing- the best.

                                      Used to get good melon @ Cal Poly Pomona when in season tho hard to find variety with seeds...also depends on what they're growing. http://www.csupomona.edu/~farmstore/

                                    2. re: Local

                                      You bring back a flood of fond memories. I grew up on my family’s truck farm in the 50’s in Riverside. I remember picking tree ripened fruit and vine ripened tomatoes and melons. After leaving home I had to learn to how pick the best melons in the stores. My dad finally took pity on me and taught me how to pick the best watermelons in stores by thumping them with the fingers of an open hand and listening to the sound – when it sounds like it’s going to split with a mere tap, then it’s ready. Of course, if all the melons in the bin are mediocre, you’re only going to get the best of the mediocre.

                                      I agree that the new seedless hybrids lack the flavor of the old green seeded variety. I remember tasting one of the first striped melons I ever saw (Klondike?) and saying “yuck”. Old Texans would tell me that they used to cut out and eat only the heart of the melon (which had no seeds) and feed the rest to the hogs.

                                    3. I've had gripes with watermelons in Cal for the longest time. I've had watermelons as a kid and just can't find the same thing here in los angeles. Maybe I'll avoid seedless from now on. I'm going to try my luck at Hollywood/Santa Monica farmers' market and see if I can get anything approximating a tasty watermelon.

                                      1. Go to the Sunland-Tujunga watermelon festival for seeded watermelon that's free and good. It usually is around the second weekend in August. Go to http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com/ You can get 30 pounders for $5 to take home, also. If it's late on Sunday and they have a lot left over, you may be able to get them at two for $5.

                                        jnsx

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: jnsx

                                          You're posting this *after* the event because....

                                          1. re: OCAnn

                                            Sorry, I found chow.com after this year's watermelon festival. That is why I gave information on where and when to check.

                                          2. re: jnsx

                                            Go to the Sunland-Tujunga watermelon festival for seeded watermelon that's free and good (admission to the festival is $1). This year (2009), it is August 14, 15 and 16. Go to http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com . Last year you could get 30 pounders for $5 to take home.

                                          3. Choosing watermelons by sound: here's what my wife taught me. Thump it. If the sound is "toonk" the melon isn't ripe. If the sound is "tick" it's past its prime. The right sound is "tink". Seems to work well.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Akitist

                                              Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market has some great vendors. You can taste a sample before you buy.

                                            2. While it is to early this year for truly great melons, Weiser Farms at the Farmers Markets produces wonderful heirloom varieties. But they are coming soon!
                                              http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pho...

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: luhkee

                                                Agree with the Costco recomendation. I've never gone wrong there and makes me feel like an expert in tapping before picking.

                                                1. re: selfportrait93

                                                  Arcadia Supermarket has had some great sweet watermelons for 0.20 a pound. Even flesh near the rind is sweet.

                                                  645 W. Duarte Road
                                                  Arcadia

                                              2. #1-Seeded watermelons are generally more flavorfull
                                                #2-Organic produce over conventional
                                                #3-knock on em,listen to its pitch,look for black suger "bleed" spots.
                                                #4-too soft is over ripe, hence sweet but mushy and grainy
                                                #5 too hard =not ripe

                                                *picking out a great watermelon is not rocket science, it's just alot of luck and a little skill!

                                                1. When you buy a watermelon and it is not sweet...like most of the melons I have bought at
                                                  Jons and Costco......If you put a little lime juice on cold watermelon it will taste good close to a ripe one. Enjoy!

                                                  1. I buy watermelons with seeds. Seedless melons are horrible. In the SFValley, try Vallarta Supermarket. Generally the international markets will have the "seeded" melons.

                                                    -----
                                                    Vallarta Supermarket
                                                    13715 Vanowen St, Van Nuys, CA 91405