Juicy red watermelon is an iconic summertime snack and an excellent way to cool down on a hot day. But if you don't know how to store watermelon properly, what should be a sweet treat could end up a depressing disappointment. We spoke with Stephanie Barlow, senior director of communications for the National Watermelon Promotion Board, to find out how to store watermelon, how long watermelon lasts, and how to pick a watermelon at the store.
How to Store Watermelon Whole
A fresh, uncut watermelon can be stored on the counter or in the refrigerator. "Once cut from the vine, a watermelon has about four weeks of shelf life," Barlow tells Hunker. But keep in mind that when you buy a melon at the store, "that includes the time it takes to get [watermelons] packed into bins, shipped to the grocery stores, and put out on display until the shopper purchases [it] and gets [it] home."
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How to Store Cut Watermelon
"Once you cut into a watermelon, it must be kept and stored in the fridge," says Barlow. Watermelon should be refrigerated in an airtight container to minimize bacterial growth. Cut watermelon cubes can be put in a food storage container, a Ziploc bag or a reusable sealed bag, or a bowl covered in cling wrap or beeswax wrap to reduce exposure to air, which helps preserve the melon's taste and texture.
"Watermelon is mostly water," Barlow says. "You can keep it fresher by draining the juice that accumulates at the bottom of your storage vessel daily."
Our favorite watermelon recipes that use cut watermelon:
How to Store Half a Watermelon
When you need to know how to store half a watermelon, the same rules apply whether the fruit is cut into small pieces or only has a single slice taken out. Mini watermelons with slices cut out of them could be placed in a large resealable bag or food storage container, but larger ones should be wrapped in plastic or beeswax wrap with the cut sides covered.
How Long Does Watermelon Last?
Ultimately, while a watermelon you plant and grow yourself could last for about a month, one bought from a store will typically last for only seven to 10 days. "Since you can't know how long it took to get from the field to your shopping cart," Barlow notes, "the Watermelon Board recommends consuming that [store-bought] watermelon within a week."
Avoid storing watermelons next to bananas since the ethylene gas bananas emit can cause watermelons to spoil quicker.
While refrigerating a whole watermelon might extend its life span a little, Barlow notes that the difference will only be a matter of days, not weeks. Since watermelons can take up a lot of space in the fridge, most people are best off storing their uncut watermelon on their countertop.
How Long Is Cut Watermelon Good For?
While an uncut watermelon planted in your garden bed can last a month and one from the grocery store can last up to 10 days, Barlow says, "Once you've cut your watermelon and it's stored in the refrigerator, you should consume it within three to five days." She notes that while they can sometimes last longer than this, it's typically best to adhere to the official shelf life recommendation from the National Watermelon Promotion Board to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
The variety of watermelon does not affect how long the watermelon lasts.
"All types of watermelon have the same shelf life or freshness," says Barlow, "regardless of whether you buy a whole, large seedless watermelon; a traditional oblong seeded watermelon; or mini personal watermelons."
How Long Does Watermelon Last?
Type of Watermelon
How Long It Lasts
Whole watermelon, homegrown
Whole watermelon, store-bought
Signs a Watermelon Has Spoiled
You can tell that an uncut watermelon has spoiled if it is discolored by mold or bacteria; if the rind has begun to shrivel; or if it has lost its taught, shiny appearance and has become a soft watermelon. If a watermelon is stored next to bananas, it could develop a spoiled spot that Barlow says will be off in color and texture and could potentially rot the whole watermelon.
As for cut watermelon, you can tell it has started to spoil if it smells strange or if the color or texture has changed. While draining the liquid from the container holding your chopped watermelon will extend the shelf life, Barlow notes that the lost juice will eventually cause the texture of the pieces to become looser, making them fall apart. If your cut melon pieces smell and taste right but have a crumbly texture, Barlow suggests making watermelon juice by pureeing the cubes in a blender.
Signs a watermelon has spoiled:
- It is discolored by mold or bacteria.
- The rind is shriveled.
- It loses its taught, shiny appearance.
- It becomes soft.
- It smells or tastes strange.
- Its texture changes.
- It develops a spoiled spot (especially if near bananas).
Can You Freeze Watermelon?
"Since watermelon is 92% water," Barlow says, "it absolutely will freeze!" If you can't eat all of your melon on time, this is an excellent way to save it for later. "It's best to cut your watermelon into cubes and then place those on a lined cookie sheet in the freezer," she says. "Once the cubes are frozen, you can put them in a zip-top bag or food storage container kept in the freezer for a week."
While frozen watermelon may have a different texture, it is still refreshing to munch on like a Popsicle. Alternatively, Barlow suggests putting it in the blender for a one-ingredient watermelon slushy. Or, you could use the watermelon cubes to cool and flavor sparkling waters, iced teas, and lemonades.
How to freeze watermelon:
- Cut your watermelon into cubes.
- Place the watermelon cubes on a lined cookie sheet.
- Place the cookie sheet in the freezer.
- Once the cubes are frozen, put them in a food storage container.
- Place the container in the freezer for up to a week.
How to Pick a Watermelon at the Store
Although many people like to knock, slap, tap, or otherwise beat on the skin of a watermelon to "hear" if it is ripe, Barlow notes that she doesn't advise using this method, as it is hard to know what to listen for. Instead, she says you should start by looking at the skin of the watermelon.
"You want a watermelon that is free from bumps, bruises, gashes, or punctures," Barlow notes, adding that light scratching on the thick skin is normal. She also advises you not to judge a watermelon by its shape, colors, or stripes, as different varieties look different, and some don't even have stripes. "There are actually over 1,200 varieties grown in 96 countries worldwide!" she says.
When you pick up the melon, it should be heavy for its size and should ideally have a buttery yellow spot where the watermelon sat on the ground as it ripened in the sun. "Too white of a ground spot, and it's likely underripe, tasting more like a cucumber with little sweetness or color," Barlow says. "Sometimes, too screaming-yellow of a ground spot indicates overripeness, where it's mushy or grainy-textured. Butter yellow is the perfect hue!"
How to Store Watermelon Summary
Type of Watermelon
How to Store
On the counter or in the fridge
In a sealed container in the fridge
Sealed and in the fridge