Produce Pete: The Beatles Sang ‘Honey Don’t’—But We Say, ‘Honeydew!’

One of the friendliest fruits of summer is at its peak. Here's how to recognize a ripe one, along with a recipe for a refreshing sorbet.

produce pete on WNBC
Produce Pete shares how to select a ripe honeydew with Pat Battle during a recent segment of WNBC’s "Weekend Today in New York.” Photo courtesy of WNBC/Pete Napolitano

After cantaloupes and watermelons, the most familiar melons to Americans are probably honeydews, which are available into the winter months. The rind is very smooth, greenishwhite to yellow, the flesh a cool lime green.

An unripe honeydew is terrible, but a ripe one is probably the sweetest melon of all—as well as the prettiest. Honeydews are high in vitamin C and potassium. They help regulate blood sugar, promote healthy skin and bones, and their high water and electrolyte content makes them very hydrating.


In addition to being very hydrating, honeydews are high in vitamin C and potassium, help regulate blood sugar, and promote healthy skin and bones. Photo courtesy of Susan Bloom

Honeydew is definitely one of my favorite melons, and while it can  be difficult to find a ripe honeydew, it’s not difficult to identify a ripe one: the rind will develop a golden color and will actually become sticky outside. 

Never be afraid of a honeydew thats developed a bit of brown freckling on the rindthe sugar comes through the fruit’s thin skin and a little bit of brown scarring is where it’s tacky with sugar. The other clue to ripeness is a sweet, heady aroma. People tend to check the stem end to see if it’s soft, but that won’t tell you a thing—fact is, good aroma, color, freckles, and a sticky feel are qualities of a ripe honeydew.

In season, honeydews from California are the best. Unless you live in California, however, a ripe honeydew before August or after October is as rare as a blue moon. Because ripe ones are fragile and hard to ship, 99 percent of those you see most of the year have been picked green and will never ripen. 

From August through October, however, a new crop of honeydews is ripening in California, and they become ready so quickly that growers can’t pick them fast enough. Lucky for all of us, because most of those honeydews end up staying on the vine until they’re ripe and full of sugar. 

Honeydews from Arizona, Texas, and Mexico are in season at the same time, but in my opinion, several California brands (Sycamores, for example) are consistently good, and if you start looking in August, you’ll rarely be disappointed. Honeydews are grown in our Tri-State area, but I believe the best ones come from California and other states.


Farmers have to be careful when harvesting honeydews from the vine. This particular fruit won’t ripen if picked too early. Immature honeydews will remain hard, bland—and frankly, inedible. So it’s vital that theyre picked at maturity.  

The confusion between mature and immature comes about because mature honeydews can still be unripe. The difference is that a mature honeydew—if left to do its thing on the kitchen counter—will begin to ripen. An immature one will never become the soft, luscious, juicy, tender fruit we know and love.  

A nice ripe honeydew will give off the following clues:

• Smell – a sweet scent that becomes stronger the longer the melon is left to ripen.
• Look – A honeydew should have next-to-no greenness when fully ripened, so keep an eye out for green veins across the rind. A ripe honeydew will have lost its green tinge and gained a nice whitish-yellow or golden hue.
• Sound – Yes, listen to your melon!  Honeydews have an abundance of seeds inside that begin to work loose from the flesh as the melon ripens. If you give a ripe melon a quick shake, you’ll hear a faint rattling within. Another audio clue? Drum one with your fingers—if ripe, the sound should be somewhat of a deep, dull thud.
• Feel — Gently press the end opposite the stem, which gardeners commonly refer to as the blossom end. A ripe honeydew will yield a little, then bounce back. The “give” you’re after is…not too hard, not too soft. Run your fingers across the rind. If it’s ready to eat, you’ll feel fine ridges in the skin. Less ripe ones will be smoother.
• Weight and Shape — When you pick up a good honeydew it will almost feel too heavy for its size because it’s loaded with juiceA mature honeydew will appear round and symmetrical, with no lumps or bumps. 
• Stem End — The stem itself will likely have been removed before the fruit hits the market. Looking at the stem end can determine whether it was nicely matured on the vine or not.  Youre looking for a subtle dip around where the stem was. Any remnants of the stem should be dry, well hardened, and free of any signs of mold.

If tat the honeydew was picked at maturity, you can ripen it at home. If your melon is actually immature (rather than unripe), it has no chance of ripening. Take it back to the store and complain.


Honeydew is delicious raw, paired with high-quality ham or another salty meat and/or bitter greens in summer appetizers, or incorporated in fruit or green salads and even soups. One way our family enjoys honeydew is in my wife Bette’s homemade honeydew sorbet—an easy-to-make dessert, very refreshing when temperatures soar.  I know you’ll enjoy this tasty treat!

Bette’s Simple Honeydew Sorbet

Makes 4 servings

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2¼ cups puréed honeydew
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated cucumber

Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then simmer for about three minutes. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Let cool at room temperature, then freeze, stirring periodically to ensure a uniform texture.  Enjoy!

About “Produce Pete” Napolitano
With over 65 years of experience in the produce industry, New Jersey’s own “Produce Pete” Napolitano is a renowned fruit and vegetable expert, author, and TV personality who’s appeared on a highly popular segment on NBC’s Weekend Today in New York, broadcast every Saturday morning for over 28 years. For more information, visit

About Susan Bloom
A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly and a variety of other well-known local and national publications, Susan Bloom is an award-winning New Jersey-based freelance writer who covers topics ranging from health and lifestyle to business, food and more. She’s collaborated with Produce Pete on a broad range of articles for over a decade.

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