By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
How to pick out the perfect watermelon
Marlene Champlin of Perry & Sons in Manteca talks about the history of the business using this mural photograph of the four-generation Perry family. Champlin was the guest presenter at the Manteca Garden Clubs first meeting of the year on Monday held in the Manteca Public Library. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

How do you pick the perfect watermelon?

“Look for the vibration,” is the simple advice from Merlene Champlin of Perry & Sons in Manteca.

First, select the biggest and most symmetrical watermelon that you can find in the pile at your neighborhood grocery store where you are shopping. Hold the watermelon with one hand, then tap the top with the palm of the other hand. If the hand holding the melon feels the vibration, you’ve made a good choice. The stronger the vibration, the better.

“Trust me, this works,” Champlin confidently told the members of the Manteca Garden Club during their first meeting of the 2012-13 club year Monday in the John McFall Room of the Manteca Public Library.

Tapping the watermelon to take note of the vibration is just one of the sure-fire factors involved in selecting the perfect watermelon, according to Champlin.

The other important thing to note is the presence of the “creamy yellow spot” on the belly of the watermelon. “Without it, don’t buy it,” she said.

The “bigger and creamier” is this yellow spot, the better, she emphasized.

“That’s usually the first mistake that people make,” not taking into account this color factor when selecting a watermelon to purchase, Champlin explained.

The yellow spot is the side of this juicy gourd that makes contact with the ground in the field where it’s warm, she said. Many of us complain, “It’s hot! It’s hot!” when the mercury rises to a hundred degrees. But it’s this hot weather that the watermelon needs to mature and ripen, Champlin pointed out.

Why pick the biggest watermelon?

And why pick the biggest watermelon in the pile? It’s because watermelon is 92 percent water and should feel heavy when you pick it up, Champlin said.

Keeping the above factors in mind – the size, symmetry, weight and the tapping “vibration” – will get you the perfect watermelon every time, she said.

Club member Marion Golisano provided the comic relief during the interactive presentation when she asked Champlin if there’s a cell phone app now available that can identify the perfect watermelon on contact. The room burst into a round of chuckles at her question.

Picking the perfect watermelon was just one of the topics that Champlin talked about during the garden club meeting. Perry & Sons, she said, is not just about watermelons – both the seedless and the regular kind. The company is also known for its pumpkins and other popular produce such as butternut, acorn, and turban squash, to name just a few. They also have white pumpkins now, called Manteca whites. And just as they have always had the bright orange mini-pumpkins, “we have the white minis now,” Champlin said.

On the proper way to store squash and watermelons, she said it’s always a good idea to place both in the refrigerator once you’ve cut them.

As to how long you can store squash, she said they can stay fresh for up to two months while making sure to keep them away from moisture, their number one enemy. God provided them with his “own insulation so we can have something to eat in the winter,” Champlin said.

History of Perry & Sons

She wrapped her presentation with a brief history of the Perry & Sons business. The story of the farming family has appeared in television programs, newspapers, and magazines including People Magazine which dubbed George Perry, Sr. as Pumpkin King during the 1980s, they hardly need an introduction anymore. But the story is one that always fascinates people, like those in the garden club.

George Perry & Sons, Inc. started with Delphino Perry who began the family business in 1925 when he established a dairy and started farming. George Perry, Sr., who, even in his octogenarian years, remains a visible part of the family business, worked in partnership with his father.

Each generation of the four-generation family, made significant contributions that steadfastly strengthened and built the company where it is today – doing business in Canada and “pretty much west of the Rockies,” according to Champlin who introduced the different members of the family using a blown-up photograph of the Perry clan holding slices of watermelons in a Manteca watermelon field.

George Sr. expanded the business by taking the watermelons and pumpkins to market in San Francisco where he became friends with such famous names in the business as Joe Carcione, the “green grocer.” George Sr.’s son, Art, a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, took the business “to another level” making Perry & Sons produce now part of such major grocery chain stores as Save Mart, Safeway and Raley’s, as well as to Canada.

“We’re just a big old company now,” said Champlin who also shared copies of recipes from Perry & Sons.

For more details information about the story of Perry & Sons, and to try some of the recipes, visit the Perry & Sons’ web site at