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How Long Does Watermelon Last: Keeping the Goodness Fresh

  • Unopened watermelons are good for a whole week if kept at room temperature.
  • Sliced watermelon can sit on a counter for a couple of hours. Afterward, it needs to be refrigerated.
  • The best way to tell if a watermelon is ripe is to sniff it; a sweet aroma is a sure sign of ripeness.
  • If the flesh of a watermelon is mushy, it is not safe to eat. 

Growing one of the most popular fruits on the planet is not difficult. It all comes down to the right climate and weather conditions, understanding the watermelon growth stages and proper storage. If you bought more watermelon than you can eat, you aren’t the only one.

We often buy our watermelons chopped in halves or quarters from the grocery store, but sometimes that is not an option. Once we slice it open, how long is watermelon good for?

We’ll help watermelon enthusiasts understand the growth stages and the right way to store watermelon. We will also discuss the most common questions, like how long does watermelon last and how to tell if it’s gone bad.

Watermelon Thriving Stage

Those refreshing summer delights we all relish in go through several crucial stages of growth, from seed to sprout. To kick start this journey, choose a sunny location with well-draining soil. Watermelons thrive in warm temperatures and require rich, loamy soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8.

Begin by planting watermelon seeds about 1 inch deep, spacing them 2-3 feet apart in rows. Watermelons are thirsty plants, so ensure consistent moisture, but avoid overwatering to prevent rot. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, not soggy.

During the early growth stages, protect the tender sprouts from weeds, which compete for nutrients. Use mulch to prevent weed growth and keep the soil moist. As your watermelon vine emerges, thin them to leave the healthiest seedlings about 2 feet apart.

To encourage healthy growth, consider providing a balanced fertilizer with a higher ratio of phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer label) to support root development and protect your garden.

Watermelon Harvesting Stage: How to Tell If a Watermelon Is Ripe

watermelon on lush green field

An average watermelon weight is somewhere around 20 and 25 pounds. When the right time comes to harvest the watermelon, leave several inches of the stem attached to the fruit and cut it to detach it from the vine. Refrain from pulling it off or twisting it to avoid vine damage and allow the same plant to give more fruit.

So, how do we know when the watermelon is ripe? The watermelon’s look says a lot about its ripeness. Knowing what to look for is one of the many advantages of gardening. The first thing to look for is the field spot, where the watermelon has been sitting in the field while growing. If you notice a yellow patch on the watermelon, that’s a sign of fine ripeness. On the other hand, if the spot is more pale and less yellowish, the watermelon is likely less ripe.

Other signs that point to the watermelon’s maturity and the best time to harvest include the following:

  • A dull, hollow sound is produced when you tap the fruit with your knuckles
  • Some varieties show their maturity with slight surface ribbing
  • Shriveling of tendrils on the nodes
  • A rougher and dull rind is a sign the watermelon is reaching maturity, as opposed to a glossy and smooth rind
  • A hard-to-penetrate rind when punctured with a fingernail

Proper Storing and Post-Harvest Tips for Watermelons

little girl eating watermelon

Before storing a watermelon in the pantry, wash it to remove all pathogens and dirt from the rind. Apart from hygienic reasons, this will help to extend the watermelon’s shelf life. Use a solution of 5% white vinegar in combination with water and let the watermelon soak for several minutes. Let it air dry before you store it in the pantry.

Just like other fruits, watermelons don’t last long. Once you cut it open, consuming it the same day is best, but sometimes (as we all know) that’s not an option. In a nutshell, if you plan on storing the watermelon whole for longer, make sure you do that in a cooler place.

What is the maximum cold-holding temperature allowed for sliced watermelon? Well, keeping slices of watermelon at 41°F or below is recommended. However, if you aren’t sure when you’ll be able to finish your watermelon before it goes bad, you can freeze it. That way, you can enjoy a delicious treat even after a year.

Watermelon in pantry Watermelon in fridge
Whole Watermelon 7 days 10 – 14 days
Cut Watermelon / 3 – 5 days

So, how long is a watermelon good for? To answer this, we’d have to consider an important factor, such as the storage method before purchase. In all fairness, we can’t exactly know how the watermelon was stored before we bought it.

How Long Does Watermelon Last?

a person holding watermelon

A watermelon’s shelf life is also determined by how we store the fruit ourselves. If you buy a whole watermelon that hasn’t been refrigerated (maybe bought at the green market), it can last for a week, up to 10 days, unopened. Keeping it chilled before cutting it open expands a watermelon’s shelf life to 2-3 weeks.

A whole, unopened watermelon will stay fresh for a week at room temperature and about two weeks in the fridge. On the other hand, a cut watermelon is a whole different story. Sliced-up watermelon is good for 3 to 5 days when stored in the fridge. This means wrapping it in a saran wrap or an air-tight container so it doesn’t become saggy and soft.

To make sure a watermelon is no longer safe to eat, check for these signs:

  • When picked up, the watermelon feels light.
  • The rind has many bruises, or the typical green color isn’t all over the fruit. (Some minor dark spots and soft spots are okay, but if the whole watermelon is heavily bruised and discolored, it’s a no-go.)
  • It smells odd and sour. If you pick up a rather foul smell, it’s a clear sign to avoid the fruit. A nice, ripe watermelon gives off a sweet, fresh aroma.
  • The inside is slimy or looks dry. A dry or mushy watermelon flesh is a sign of water loss. Since watermelons are 90% water, it might mean no edible parts of the melon are left. Some water loss is fine, but if the whole thing looks like the flesh is pulling from the seeds, it’s toss time.

The Final Say: How Long Does Watermelon Last

Enjoying the delicious freshness of a watermelon is the perfect cooling method for a hot summer’s day. But how long does a watermelon last? Well, it depends on how the fruit was stored before you bought it and how you will store it yourself.

A whole, unopened watermelon can sit at room temperature for a week. A watermelon is good for 2 weeks when stored in a fridge. If you have some sliced watermelon left, it’s best to keep it refrigerated and eat it within 3 to a maximum of 5 days.

If you want to get the most out of the watermelon but can’t finish it all in one day, wrap it up nicely and freeze it. That way, you’ll have a delicious treat for a whole year.

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