Is my melon ripe?

Where it's edible, it's highly eatable. But where it's not, it's not desirable.

Self doubt is destructive. And yet, as I eat and review fruit for this blog, I second guess myself. If I eat a fruit and judge it to be bad, how can I know that its badness is a property of the fruit, rather than my failure to properly ripen it?

Just as Americans are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury of their peers, so too should fruit be granted the right to be eaten, when ripe, without prejudice … by other pieces of fruit?

Quick syllogistic digression:

  1. Our bodies are made of the things we eat
  2. Our bodies are our selves
  3. I eat fruit
  4. I am a fruit

Great. Now to the issue of impartiality. I have biases, of course, but I try to be transparent. I love Trader Joe’s, but the fruit sucks. I dislike Walmart, but their melons are wonderful. Capisce?

The real elephant in the room — the one I cannot tame — is the mysterious notion of ripeness. Just when I thought I’d encountered all the tricks of the trade, I came across this video, in which a man rubs a melon and listens for a noise.

Of course, I promptly went into the kitchen and rubbed my half eaten Golden Dew melon — and sure enough, it made a noise.

Wegman’s Golden Honeydew

After coming off the high of the Walmart Goldendew, I had to meet this melon again. The one reviewed here, purchased at Wegman’s for a bit more money — was just as pretty as his counterpart at Walmart — but unfortunately, not as good.

There was just too much rind.

In the middle, near the seeds, it was great. Soft, super sweet, and juicy. But unfortunately, that made up maybe 30%* of the melon. And for $3.99 (they are $2.68 at Walmart), I cannot recommend.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Sweet Juicy $3.99 / each No

*Complete guess

Bonus nonsense:

Concord Grapes

tl,dr: the Concord grapes at Whole Foods are delicious and extremely grapey — buy them

It would have cost me $20 to remove the watermark from this duck. But ducks love water omg haha lmao.

A duck walks into a store and asks the clerk, “Got any gwapes?”. The clerk says no, and the duck leaves.

The next day, the duck comes back and asks the clerk again, “Got any gwapes?” The clerk barks back: “No, and if you ask me again, I’m going to staple your beak shut!”

The duck, of course, returns the next day. But this time he asks, “Got any staples?” The clerk, somehow forgetting his threats, or forced into honesty by professional obligation, admits that he doesn’t.

Our friend the duck, now safe from the threat of injury, once again asks, “Got any gwapes?”

This is a joke that my friends and I used to tell. I think the fun/funny part is saying the word “gwapes”.

For my birthday this year, my fine colleagues Kabir, Kolia and Sue surprised me with a cornucopia of exotic fruits. Amongst the bounty were two variety of “gwapes” that I’d never had — champagne and concord — the latter of which was very much worth recommending.

Whole Foods Conventional Concord Grapes

Sweet and grapey. Yes please.

There’s always been an implicit criteria that goes into a chirbah fruit review. Does the thing taste like it ought? It might be the best chicken flavour you’ve ever had — but if it comes in the form of a banana, our users ought to know.

This grape destroys in that category — it tastes more like a grape than any other grape I’ve had recently. And it’s sweet and juicy to boot. Thank you, friends, for making this grape so easy to recommend.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Sweet Juicy $3.99 / box Yes

Exclusive tip: try this in yogurt as a replacement for berries — you won’t be disappointed.

Nice melons

tl,dr: Buy the Golden Dew Honeydew from Walmart — it’s amazing

My mom wouldn’t let me call this blog “nice melons”, but I have to take my kicks where I can get them in this dog eat dog world so here we go.

After weeks of ups and downs in peaches and plums, and a similarly spotty tour de watermelon, I’ve been gladdened and surprised to have not hated any of the honeydew or cantaloupe I’ve been eating.

All have been ok, good, or great. Why!?!?

Golden Dew (Golden Honeydew)

Looks like a cantaloupe, right? Well son, that there is a Golden Dew.

Let me introduce you to the Golden Dew. It’s a honeydew, but instead of a familiar greenish hue, this one’s skin is bright gold! And boy, they are just as sweet.

My colleague Suzan got it … and I have to swallow before I say this … at Walmart! Ugh, I’m sick with how good this melon was.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend?
Very sweet Juicy $2.68 each Yes

I couldn’t stop eating this melon and I wasn’t even hungry. It was extremely sweet — medicinal, almost — with a bit of a chalky aftertaste. But great.

I just called Walmart on Monday (July 31st) and they are still in stock.

Conventional Cantaloupe from Kroger

Not a bad melon, but not a good one either. Cheap, though.

This was a big melon. And a very ripe one. It made my car smell like compost. But it wasn’t really a nice melon. Like I wouldn’t see it at the store and say, “Hey, nice melon. You come here often?”

But for $1.99, I think it’s ok to expect a little less. It won’t have you coming back for more the way Walmart melons do — but toss it into a blender with a couple of peaches and a dollop of yogurt and you’ve got yourself a nice slice of summer.

So buy it if you plan to mix it with things, or you don’t mind mediocrity, or if your body is not a temple. But I can’t recommend it on its own.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend?
Slightly sweet Juicy $1.99 each No

TJ’s Organic Little Cantaloupe

Looks pretty, don't it? Some people even like it.

I had a good feeling about this melon. I was gunning for TJ to come through on at least one piece of fruit this summer. But the people have spoken, and they aren’t making it easy.

Half my colleagues recommend it, and half don’t. It’s a tie, and I’m the only one at the chirbah office today, so I guess I’ll decide. Even though it’s not a bad melon — heck I thought it was sweet enough – at $3.49 each, these little organic cantaloupe are not big enough or tasty enough to be worth it.

It’s a sober, staid decision — but sometimes we must rule with our heads and not our hearts. I’m sorry TJ, but another one bites the dust.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend?
Sweet Somewhat juicy $3.49 each No

Try Before You Buy

tl,dr: Whole Foods lets you try before you buy — take advantage

There is a simple way to solve the fruit asymmetry problem — just eat before you buy. At most grocery stores, this is illegal — which we can’t condone at chirbah.

Fortunately, at Whole Foods, we aren’t made to be criminals in our pursuit of sweet fruit — just curious, welcome customers. Twice now, in Charlottesville and Chicago, I tried fruit before buying and was much better off for it.

In Chicago, I avoided a not-so-sweet watermelon, and instead came away with a great Santa Claus Melon.

Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Sweet Very Juicy $4.99 / each Yes
Christmas came early for this guy! This melon was sweet and very juicy.

Do any of your local grocery stores / markets let you try the fruit before you eat it? Let me know in the comments.

*The Whole Foods in Chicago is the one at 550 N Kingsbury St, Chicago, IL 60642

Epic Watermelon Compare Sesh

tl,dr: Integral Yoga Natural Foods on Preston Avenue has a watermelon you should eat.

So you think you know watermelon. Are you a tapper? A squeezer? A shaker? A sniffer?

Everybody and their grandma has some strategy for picking out the perfect melon, but I’m skeptical. Does any of this hocus pocus really work?*

Being the empiricist my mama raised me to be, I decided to do an experiment. I bought three melons from three stores and forced my colleagues to eat and review them.

I am very excited to share the results.

Trader Joe’s Conventional Watermelon

Juiciness Sweetness Price Recommend
Juicy Faintly sweet $2.99 / each No!

TJ has made a poor showing this summer w/r/t fruit. But just as the leaves of the peach tree turn over, so do we here at Chirbah come to TJ again with open hearts and open minds.

Too bad their watermelon also suck!!!

They are cheap — cheap and terrible!

The Trader Joe’s watermelon tasted like water — so don’t buy this watermelon unless it’s being used solely for hydration.

Whole Foods Organic Baby Watermelon

Juiciness Sweetness Price Recommend
Juicy Slightly Sweet $5.99 / each No

This organic melon was better, and actually a slim majority of my colleagues “would recommend it” (6 out of 11), but I still think it was pretty mediocre. It just wasn’t sweet enough.

This pretty little guy doesn't have much flavour.

Integral Yoga Natural Foods Local Orange Watermelon

Juiciness Sweetness Price Recommend
Juicy Sweet $0.75 / lb Yes!

This was a great melon — and my first orange one! 100% of my colleagues “would recommend it”. They are grown at a Virginia farm called Riverside Farm.

This watermelon, orange in colour, is much sweeter than the others.

Aggregate Results

There is no disputing that the orange watermelon from Yoga Natural Foods won this round.

Some choice comments about the melons:

TJ: “meh”

WF: “Good, but not my favorite watermelon”

IY: “delicioso”

Check out full review data here.

* If you consider yourself some kind of Harry Potter of melon picking, please let me know. I will fund an experiment where we put your method to the test against randomness.

A peach is not a peach is not a peach

tl,dr: Costco Conventional White Peach; Sweetness = sweet, Juiciness = juicy; Recommend = Yes

This peach can be eaten hurriedly in an airport parking lot and still enjoyed.

Some fruit dream. They sit, slumbering on their vines, awaiting a life as the lead member of a crumble or a tart, as the star of some summer salad, or the prize winning peach at this year’s state fair.

Those aren’t Costco fruit.

Costco fruit sleep sterile, dreamless sleeps. If they do think at night, it’s about packing efficiency, the automatic doors of late model minivans, or how their blemishes look under fluorescent light.

Or so I thought.

My beliefs changed recently when my colleague Mr. Tim (who readers know from this post), gifted me with a conventionally grown, California white peach from Costco.

It sat on my desk for a few days, biding its time as I tended to other fruit. But then it was ripe, and I was going out of town. So in a harried act of fruit consumption, I devoured this peach in the parking lot of the Charlottesville Albermarle Airport.

As you can see, I was not disappointed:

Juicy Sweet Price Recommend
4, Very Juicy 2, Sweet ??? Yes

This was a good peach. Not a rockstar peach, or even an amazing peach, but a peach that I can confidently recommend. Learn from my prejudice folk – don’t knock it till you try it.

Don't miss these peaches at Costco -- they dream!

Bonus! Listen to me eat and review this peach.

Trader Joe's Stone Fruit Freakout

tl,dr: Most of the stone fruit at Trader Joe’s is not worth buying, but the saturn peaches are intriguing.

I’ve got mixed feelings about TJ’s stone fruit. On one hand, it’s been pretty bad this summer. On the other, the surprisingly bad quality inspired me to start this blog in the first place.

It’s kind of how I feel about the other TJ: yes, he was a great statesmen, but the dude owned slaves. It’s either dry nectarines or human chattel with these people.

Trader Joe’s Conventional Yellow Nectarine

It looks good, I know. Too bad it wasn't sweet.
Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Not sweet Slightly juicy $.79/each No

I tried this same “Ripe & Ready” nectarine several weeks ago and it was similarly disappointing. These things smell and feel great, but they are all water and no sugar. A few other stores around town carry this brand, so take heed.

Trader Joe’s Conventional White Nectarine

Not even the Alt Right would stand behind this white nectarine.
Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Not sweet Slightly juicy $.79/each No

Same story here. Just not sweet.

Trader Joe’s Yellow Saturn Nectarine

Very nice flavour when eaten immediately
Sweetness Juiciness Price Recommend
Sweet Slightly juicy $3.49/four-pack No

After an honest conversation with TJ’s staff about deficits in their stone fruit selection, I was pointed in the direction of these fun little saturn peaches. They were sweet and had a unique flavour, but never got soft.

So I never knew when to eat them. I had one genuinely good one and three edible ones that dried up as I waited for them to soften.

Because these peaches were confusing, I can’t recommend them. But, I hope to give them another shot later this summer.

Honestly, I feel bad for all the TJ stone throwing – it’s really one of my favorite grocery stores. And I’d like to say that no more shade will be thrown on TJ’s fruit, but unfortunately more bad news is on the way.

Trader Joe's Saturn Peaches

One nice thing about buying and eating all this fruit is chatting up the fine men and women of the grocery store. They have a lot to say about their store’s produce (not all of it positive), but they know it pretty well because they eat it often.

I went into Trader Joe’s a few days ago hoping

Two Bad Apples Spoils a Lunch

Where do you shop, girl?

When Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, I know that she saw the world differently. But did she figure out how an apple should taste?

Well, if the Garden of Even were located at the Whole Foods on 29, I wouldn’t hold out hope. The conventionally grown, New Zealand Fuji and Gala apples are underwhelming at best, and tasteless at worst.

Now, readers of this blog will know that I like WF. Indeed, I endorse their stone fruit. But their apple game is weak.

Whole Foods Conventional Fuji – New Zealand ($1.78/lb)

These Fuji apples look pretty. But how do they taste?*
*They're from NZ ... the placard was mislabeled

I ate this first, immediately after buying it. I’m willing to concede that it could have been riper. But how do you gauge the ripeness of a perfect looking apple? If you have any idea, please let me know in the comments. The texture was great – very crispy, and the juice levels were appropriate. But it was just barely sweet.

Kind Price Sweetness Juiciness Texture Recommend
Fuji $1.78 / lb Faintly Sweet Juicy Crisp No

I can’t recommend this apple because I refuse to believe that it’s the best we can do. But, if you’re satisfied with a good crunch, and a decent amount of juicy, then this isn’t a terrible purchase – especially at $1.78 / lb.

Whole Foods Conventional Royal Gala – New Zealand ($1.78/lb)

Gala apples at Whole Foods ... look but please don't eat.*
*They're from NZ ... the placard was mislabeled

This was a pretty apple. It shined. It felt good in my hand. It looked like an apple you’d give a prize winning pig. And maybe he’d like it.

But I didn’t.

Despite its looks, it tasted like water, and was in fact a little mealy. Don’t buy this apple, people. In a world with so much good fruit, this was a waste of an appetite.

Kind Price Sweetness Juiciness Texture Recommend
Royal Gala $1.78 / lb Tasteless Juicy A tad bit mealy No

Bonus feature: hear the raw recording of me reviewing this apple.

The Center Cannot Hold -- how quality varies between batches

tl,dr: WF conventional, locally grown nectarines; Sweetness = 2, Juiciness = 3; Price = $2.49/lb; Recommend? Yes, but they were better earlier in the month.

Looks good donut? Well ... it kind of is.

It was a bit of a kick in the pants.

The nectarines that I had gushed on about in the last post – those wonderfully juicy, delightfully sweet, orange orbs of delight were just not as good this time.

Yes, they were good. But they weren’t drop your socks, call your mama, and get on a plane home good. They were merely good.

Anyway, four people ate these things. Mr. Kolia and Mr. Tim, two of the finest minds in deep learning. They were mostly satisfied:

Person Juicy Sweet Recommend
Mr. Tim juicy sweet yes
Mr. Kolia juicy very sweet yes

So they liked it, though Tim mentioned that he enjoyed a sweeter peach the night before, and Kolia said his was a bit tart.

The other two – me and the lovely Ms. Haley – also reviewed them:

Person Juicy Sweet Recommend
Me juicy faintly sweet yes
Ms. Haley juicy sweet no

Ms. Haley’s decision to not recommend the nectarine was clearly informed by her earlier consumption of the July 4th nectarine. Preference is all about experience – and if you had the best, well, it’s hard to settle for anything less.

Enjoy these nectarines, dear reader. But keep a steady eye on this blog. As you can see, conditions in the fruit world can change rapidly.