From production to harvest, the battle is not yet over for watermelon farmers. There is the subject of post-harvest care, specifically, with storage options. Joe Kemble, Alabama Extension vegetable specialist, cautions growers that watermelons are not adapted to long-term storage.
“They will last two to three weeks at most in storage,” Kemble said. “If you’re looking at long-term storage, say I’m harvesting today, tomorrow or the next day and I’m not going to market until Friday, short-term storage at 50 to 60 degrees and around 90% relative humidity is ideal,” Kemble said. “Can you store watermelons and cantaloupes together? Ideally, no. They have two different regimes of temperatures they require to really maintain their quality.”
If watermelons are stored at low temperatures, they can be subject to chilling injury. This can cause pitting and off-flavors. They can also lose sweetness if they are stored outside in the environment, even in the shade.
“For you as the seller or grower, you may not see the problem. It’s the end user, the person who gets it at the end and opens it. They’re the ones that’s going to see the problems if they have chilling injury or if they developed off flavors,” Kemble said.
He also warns producers to never drop, throw or walk on watermelons. It can cause internal bruising and breakdown of the flesh.