Standing behind a table crowded with watermelons, John Lahargou beats on several of the rinds as if they were bongos. After tapping one with a slightly higher-pitched sound — offering less bass than the other melons — he stops, nods and concludes, “That’s on the greener side.”
If you search the Internet for advice on picking the best watermelon, you’ll find plenty of tips, including (but not limited to): sniff it, shake it, squeeze it, lift it, turn it. But Lahargou is drawn to the beat of his melons.
“Every day I’m picking watermelons, and I do it by sound,” says Lahargou (pictured above, demonstrating the technique).
Before each melon is picked, he says, he drums on it — not with a fist or a knuckle, but with the underside of his extended fingers. (Again, think bongo player.)
“You wanna hear what’s inside,” he explains. “The vibration.”
During a recent farmers’ market in Arroyo Grande, multiple people tapped on his watermelons — a regular occurrence at his booth. One amateur melon tapper said the sound of a good melon compares to the sound of tapping a basketball.
That’s probably not a bad approach, Lahargou says later, though he’s not ready to say it’s the end-all technique.
“I’ve opened thousands of these, trying to figure it out,” he says.
While using sound to choose the right melon is not a perfect science, Lahargou is uniquely qualified to judge a melon by its cover.