Summer is on its way, but the weather here is doing its hardest to convince me otherwise. Constant drizzle punctuated by torrential downpours, grey skies, and hail of all sizes are the consistent, oppressive norm. The only evidence the seasons are changing is found in the produce aisle. Spring onions, asparagus, and the berries starting to trickle in: these plant parts allow me to enjoy the season even when the weather is cold and shitty. And soon it will be melon season, and then I will know it is summer.
Watermelon feels especially summery. (I like mine with a little salt — hold the mustard). Chilling the melon, so it’s nice and cold when you come in from mowing the lawn or your morning jog, can make it even more refreshing, but you don’t want to store your melon in the refrigerator. According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, doing so can affect flavour and texture:
Store watermelon between 10-15°C, however 12°C is the ideal temperature. If watermelon are received refrigerated do not break the cold chain and store them in refrigeration. Watermelon will keep for 7-10 days at room temperature. After two days at 0°C, watermelons develop an off-flavour, become pitted and lose colour. Freezing causes rind to break down and produces a mealy, mushy texture. Once a melon is cut, it should be wrapped and stored between -12-2°C.
And according to Tasting Table, watermelon stored in the fridge is actually less nutritious than melon stored at warmer temperatures:
But refrigeration affects more than just the taste and colour. As shown in a study done by the USDA Agriculture Research Service, it also affects the nutrition levels. Antioxidant levels are higher in room-temperature watermelon. Medical News Today explains that lycopene is 20% higher and beta-carotene levels double in unrefrigerated watermelon. (Refrigeration can cause a loss of colour in the watermelon, and a darker colour indicates a higher level of lycopene.)
According to me, room temperature fruit tastes better anyway. Cold can reduce the intensity of certain flavours and, though the topic remains poorly understood in scientific circles, room-temp fruit reads as juicier, sweeter, and more fragrant.
So unless you purchase pre-cut or pre-chilled melon, or have some cut-up leftovers, keep the fruit in a cool place in your kitchen. If your house runs a little hotter than 15°C — and most do — don’t stress about it too much. The melon may not make it a full 10 days on a 21-degree counter, but I’ve never had a watermelon go un-eaten for more than a day or two in my house, and it will taste better (and thus get eaten a lot faster) than a melon that’s been stored at fridge temperatures.