More for Less | Beat the heat with a juicy watermelon
Where to get the best watermelons for the best price.
Editor’s Note: Because we’re all feeling the pinch of inflation, the Gazette has begun “More for Less,” a recurring list of budget-friendly things to experience and buy to help stretch your dollar a little further.
Not only are watermelons hydrating and refreshing, they’re also rich in vitamin C with a decent amount of potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin A, lycopene and magnesium.
Here are some tips on finding the best watermelons from Fifteen Spatulas (fifteenspatulas.com):
• Find the field spot, or ground spot, which is a creamy spot on the outside and where the watermelon was resting on the ground. The spot should be a yellow-creamy color. If you knock on it, your knuckles should bounce off the melon and the surface should be fairly hard and firm. You will get a dull thud if the flesh is soft, which indicates it’s starting to spoil. If there are irregular bumps, this indicates the melon may have gotten inconsistent amounts of sun or water.
• Don’t be concerned if there are green stripes or not, or if there’s solid green color on most of the outside of the watermelon. The exterior pattern has more to do with the varieties of watermelons a grocery store carries than with being a ripe melon or not. Pick the heavier watermelon. That means there’s more water in it, which means a juicy watermelon.
Ocala-based chef Richard Oaks recommends looking for watermelons that are less oblong and more round in shape.
“The heavier the better,” he said, “and the webbing should be more spaced out instead of closer together. Those are the sweetest and riposte watermelons.”
The “Gazette” reached out to local residents on Facebook’s “Ocala Word of Mouth” page to get input. Three members (along with this writer) have purchased watermelons from a big box retailer that have been past their prime, so check carefully when shopping.
Other commenters claim that roadside vendors have the best watermelons and deals, but others chimed in and said that’s not always the case. Two group members said resellers buy from stores and mark up the price. One customer said one outdoor fruit seller let the watermelons stay out too long in the heat, which liquefied the pulp, and another complained they are inconsistent with their prices. Best to verify the source.
“There’s a guy that usually sets up at the corner of NE 35th Street and Old Jacksonville Road,” chimed in group member Vanessa Weaver.
Below are some deals we found shopping around and through local recommendations.
Waldron Produce Farms
17750 N U.S. 301, Citra
$6 for big, seeded watermelons
$4 for seedless watermelons
2999 NW 10th St., Ocala
$3.99 for seedless watermelons
7891 Bahia Road, Silver Springs Shores
Large seedless watermelons for $5.29
2000 SW College Road, Ocala
Watermelons for $2.99-$5.29
Brown & Brown Farms
13940 U.S. 301, Oxford
Large seedless watermelons for $5.99
Recommendations from the online group included Harbison Farms in Anthony and Market of Marion in Belleview, but they didn’t get back to us with their prices by deadline.