There’s nothing better than eating a chilled watermelon on a sweltering summer afternoon. Or drinking a watermelon-infused glass of water if that’s your preference. While you probably love watermelon, it’s still entirely possible to buy too much of it.
If this fruit goes on a sale, some of us go way overboard and buy 2 or even three whole ones instead of one like we usually do. And once we realize the mistake, the question that immediately comes to mind is: how long does watermelon last? Obviously, watermelon does go bad and knowing its shelf life and optimal storage methods helps with planning on how to use it, so none of it goes to waste.
If you find yourself with too much watermelon for your family’s needs and would prefer to consume it instead of throwing it out once it’s past its prime, this article is for you.
How Long Does Whole Watermelon Last? Do You Have To Refrigerate It?
A whole watermelon lasts much longer than cut or sliced one, so if you want to get the most time out of it, keep it whole as long as possible. When it comes to the shelf life of a watermelon, it lasts about 3 to 4 weeks once cut from the vine (1).
An important thing to note here is that quite often the watermelons we buy are imported and not local, so you have to take into account the time it took them to get to your supermarket. In most cases, it’s about a week, but it’s not unusual for the travel time to take even up to two weeks. So what you’re left with, approximately, is about a week of storage at ambient temperature, or around two weeks in the fridge. Those periods are, of course, just safe estimates, and quite often you can get a few more days past that period.
In short, if you’ve bought too much watermelon, refrigerate it. Otherwise, a cool and dark place that’s away from heat sources, like a vegetable shelf in the pantry, is perfectly fine.
Before we talk about sliced or cut watermelon, let me share a few tips when it comes to picking them at the store. Here’s what to look for when buying one (1):
- choose symmetrical fruit with a firm rind, not damaged in any way
- make sure it feels heavy for its size, the easiest way to do that is to compare its weight to other similar-sized ones
- on the bottom there should be a creamy-yellow spot, on which the watermelon sat when it was ripening in the sun; if that spot is only pale white, the fruit might not be the sweetest
How Long Does Cut Watermelon Last? How To Store Cut Watermelon?
Cut watermelon lasts much shorter than its whole counterpart. It keeps its quality for about 3 to 5 days when you refrigerate it. If you leave it out at room temperature, it only lasts around a day, so that’s not a good alternative.
When it comes to storage, you don’t want the watermelon to dry out in the fridge. To ensure that, you need to protect it in one way or another. The most popular option, especially if it’s a half or a quarter, is to use a plastic wrap. If the fruit is already sliced or cut into smaller parts, an airtight container or a freezer bag work well. Plus either is a more environment-friendly option than the plastic wrap.
Can You Freeze Watermelon?
If the mentioned shelf life is too little for your needs, you might be tempted to freeze the leftover watermelon. The fruit is about 91% water (2) and doesn’t freeze well (1). The only option suggested in many places is to freeze it in a cubed form and use to infuse water, drinks, or use instead of ice cubes in smoothies. In all of these you don’t thaw the fruit, just throw it in frozen. Defrosting destroys the texture, so you wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as you do fresh watermelon.
If you’d like to freeze watermelon cubes, here’s how to go about it:
- Line up a cookie sheet with wax paper (1) or aluminum foil.
- Cut the flesh into cubes and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheet.
- Put it into the freezer and keep it there until the cubes freeze, usually couple of hours or overnight.
- Transfer the cubes into a freezer bag or airtight container, and back in the freezer.
This way, you can scoop as many cubes as you need any time, and they don’t take as much space as they do on a cookie sheet.
How To Tell If Watermelon Is Bad?
As long as the watermelon is whole, it’s usually tricky to tell if it’s spoiled or not. Of course, any bruises and dark spots might mean that the parts near those will be bad, but you can usually cut them out and eat the rest. If the fruit feels super light, or even hollow inside, you can probably discard it without even cutting it open. That feeling of lightness indicates moisture loss and the fruit will be no good. That, or the fact that the rind is in a terrible state, would be probably the only situations in which I would throw away the watermelon without checking the quality of the flesh first. Otherwise, grab a knife and see what’s inside.
When it comes to the watermelon’s flesh, check the color, texture, and aroma. The flesh should be red, but not dark-red, and it should also be quite firm, not mushy or slimy. When it comes to smell, fresh and somewhat sweet is what you’re looking for. If anything about the fruit’s flesh isn’t quite right, or it doesn’t taste as good as it used to, discard it.
One thing to note is that sometimes there are some internal cracks in the flesh, usually caused by temperature fluctuations (1). Such watermelons are sometimes called hollow-hearted or brokenhearted and are perfectly safe for consumption.
- Whole watermelons last about a week at room temperature, and around two weeks when refrigerated.
- Cut watermelon lasts between 3 and five days in the fridge. Make sure you wrap it well, so it doesn’t dry out.
- Freeze watermelon only if you can use it frozen, e.g., to infuse water with it or in a smoothie. Freezing and thawing destroy the texture of the fruit.
- If you store the fruit for a long time and it feels very light or hollow inside, it’s due to water loss, and it’s no good anymore.