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Watermelon is the taste of summer, it’s just a little late to the party


La Nina has stuck again, and this time it’s Our watermelons that have been impacted. 

The constant rain last year has meant that our planting schedule for watermelons was delayed and then consistent rain over Christmas, as well as lower sunshine hours, impacted our summer harvesting schedules.  

Gordon McPhail, our General Manager of Farm says that the last year was extremely challenging for growers across the country and the constant rain over the start of January has not helped either.  

“Gisborne normally has a long, dry summer and we tend to worry about not having enough water. This year, it’s the opposite, we’ve had double the amount of rain we normally have at this time and we’ve also had very low sunshine hours.  Like everyone, we’re all really disappointed with this weather, it’s already a really tough season. 

“We know that watermelon is quintessentially summer on a plate and beloved by Kiwis’ both young and old. So, the pressure to grow the sweatiest and juiciest melons is keeping me up at night. 

“Our team is watching the watermelon patch daily and they predict the first harvest will be in the mid-to-late January and will be available until end of March. This weather is extremely challenging for the teams, both for planting and harvesting. Too much water is not great for the plants,” he says. 

Watermelons are a challenging crop to grow and if you get it wrong you can easily lose an entire patch overnight.  

“Ultimately, it’s about spending time investing in trials, ensuring we’re selecting the right varieties for our conditions. Planting in the right soils and conditions as well as treating the melons right post-harvest; but that’s what makes them so much fun to grow.  

“For us it’s all about taste because everyone loves a good watermelon.  Once we harvest the melons, we treat them like green gold. Each one is gently handpicked when ripe and then by hand, brushed, washed, dried, graded and packed, all floating through water to ensure they emerge undamaged.  

“It’s all part of our reassurance to our customers that when they pick-up a LeaderBrand melon, it’s going to be the best they can get,” he says. 

Gordon says the tip for finding the perfect watermelon this summer is all about weight. 

“Watermelons are about 90 per cent water, so picking a heavier one means it should be nice and juicy.  You’re also looking for nice straight lines on the melon and a nice round shape.  We handpick each melon in the field to make sure you’re buying only the best  

“Before serving the melon it’s best to keep them at room temperature but they are nicer to eat chilled.  The skin is the perfect packaging but make sure you give it a good clean before cutting. You don’t want to transfer any dirt from the outside of the skin into the inside when cutting the melon. 

“Cut watermelon generally lasts about three to five days in the fridge. Watermelon can also be frozen for smoothies, made into a sorbet and surprisingly makes a good ingredient for some cakes and salads.   

LeaderBrand watermelons are in store from mid-to-late January. Make sure you grab a stickered melon as soon as they hit the stores.