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I bought a large seedless watermelon 2 days ago, and I made sure to check for the following:

  • Yellow underbelly
  • Hollow sound
  • Solid rind

When I got home I left on the kitchen table. The room temperature was around 25-27 degrees C. Today, I touched the rind and it felt soft! I cut it open and I saw that the white pith had rotted.

Can anyone explain what the possible cause of this is?

(I've left watermelon out on the dining table for days at room temperature before, and nothing like this has ever happened. I should also mention that:

  • The watermelon was whole and unblemished.
  • There were no fruits around it and it wasn't in a bag, so the ethylene explanation is out.
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How thick was the rind? – Shule Oct 14 at 1:04

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Without forensics it's hard to tell exactly what happened. However, one possible explanation is sunlight. If the watermelon was in the sun at all, even just a little part of it, that tends to accelerate the growth of all sorts of things.

Another possibility is that it was just past its date. There isn't really a way to tell if this is near or not without chemical analysis.

In watermelon country (I live near an ancient greek watermelon port) watermelon is generally refrigerated. This is partially because we find it tastier when it's cold, and partially because room temperature easily goes above 30, and even above 34-5 on certain days.

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As Carmi said, it may have been older when you got it.

Also, the variety of watermelon matters. Some watermelons will keep for about three or four months, or more (unrefrigerated). These are sometimes known as winter watermelons. Varieties include such as Red-seeded Citron (not really like you'd expect a watermelon to be, per se), Navajo Winter, Santo Domingo Winter, King Winter and Wintermelon, among others.

Some watermelons need to be used as soon as they're ripe, practically.

The kinds you find in a regular grocery store are usually considered shipping melons (they have tough rinds). These normally keep longer than those with thin or fragile rinds.

Some possible reasons that a shipping melon would go bad fast include these:

  • It may have been diseased.
  • It may have been deficient in calcium, silica, potassium or other stuff.
  • It may have been exposed to something before or after you got it (including fungus).
  • It may have had perforations that were difficult to detect.
  • If the fruit was unwashed, it may have had surface fungi on the rind that made it spoil faster. For at least one watermelon variety (Wintermelon), you're encouraged to wipe it down before storage. I don't know if that applies to all watermelons.
  • The rind may have been unnaturally thin on that specific fruit (atypical for its variety).

I've had watermelons I've bought from the store before (for 9 cents a pound—just thought I'd throw that in there) keep for several weeks unattended, under a table (in a college apartment). I'm guessing they were just fresh, healthy watermelons. It's not always easy to tell how long they'll last by looking at them, or feeling them.

If you can find the variety of the watermelon and where it was grown (Sangria might be a good guess), you might be able to find out more information about its susceptibilities.

Anyway, even though some melons can last a long time unrefrigerated, most of them probably last longer in the refrigerator, as Carmi said (particularly if they wouldn't last long outside of it; I'm not sure how winter watermelons do in the refrigerator by comparison).

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