Folks, I've got some pre-Labor Day weekend news that I can't imagine you're going to want to hear (because I sure as heck didn't want to hear it myself), but yes, watermelons are STILL exploding unprovoked in people's kitchens.
Let me explain: This summer, we've seen watermelons foaming, oozing, and ultimately bursting on people's countertops. I know it sounds too wild to be true, but you can fully trust me on this one; we have video and photo proof across multiple platforms, from TikTok to Facebook groups.
it f*cking exploded 💀 @hankgreen1 #watermelon
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Those who tragically witness their watermelons ooze, crack, or explode usually also note a putrid, nauseating smell, often compared to vomit. Wonderful!
The "latest victim of The Great Watermelon Crisis of 2023" was Shari Diamond, who posted a photo of her limp, melon-less watermelon shell in the popular Trader Joe's Meal Ideas For Busy Moms Facebook group on August 29. "Purchased at TJ's on Sunday, exploded Monday," she captioned the post. "Consider yourself warned. No one is safe."
Pour one out for Shari, because this? This is wild.
Wilder even are the 500+ comments on Shari's post, of which an alarming amount consist of other Facebook users sharing their own first-hand accounts of watching their watermelons spontaneously erupt.
And before you call BS on this and chalk it up to being some wild internet stunt, this phenomenon is very real. In Shari's case, her watermelon exploded just 24 hours after she brought it home, and the people who had never experienced it themselves were totally shocked that this was even a thing that could happen.
Just to be clear, this occurrence isn't solely affecting Trader Joe's watermelons (cue a big sigh of relief from the currently frazzled TJ's PR team). Rather, experts believe that the record-breaking high temperatures we've consistently seen this summer have contributed to a perceived increase in these watermelon-exploding incidents across the board, which are caused by decay and fermentation.
As food science and human nutrition professor Keith Schneider, PhD recently told Today, this uptick in explosions could actually be an "unexpected consequence of climate change," as excessive heat can negatively impact the quality of all produce. Watermelons, in particular, are especially susceptible to rapid fermentation due to their higher sugar content.
Basically, here's what happens. Let's say your watermelon has been growing big, strong, and juicy in Texas, where many cities have seen their hottest summers on record. It's picked off the vine, cleaned, and then shipped to wherever you're buying it — let's say New York, in my case. It could feasibly take more than a week to get that watermelon all the way from the vine to my grocery store and, ultimately, my counter. For most of that journey, it's sitting in this ungodly heat which speeds up the fermentation process considerably.
It's believed that this rapid fermentation is being caused this summer by certain bacteria originating in any of the states where watermelons are grown in the US, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, and Texas. These bacteria make their way into the watermelon flesh through any entry points in damaged or cracked rinds and stems, and when combined with warmer-than-usual temperatures, they can yield messy (and potentially dangerous) results.
Has this ever happened to you??? I bought this watermelon on Saturday, and on Tuesday morning, it exploded and was empty inside. Listen to this noise…Gross gross gross 🤮#fyp #fypシ #watermelondisgusting #quebectiktok #quebec #watermelonfail #watermelon
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As Schneider told Today, "If enough fermentation occurs, which produces gas, enough internal pressure may build up for the watermelon to crack or pop." Most commonly, excess pressure will cause the decaying watermelon flesh and juices to foam or ooze out of the rind or stem, but if exit points become blocked up for any reason...boom.
If you're worried that you, like Shari, will soon wake up to find your kitchen counters and floors slicked with rotting watermelon guts, there are several things you can do to lessen your chances:
• Nutrition expert Toby Amidor told Food Network that contrary to popular belief, you should actually be storing your watermelons in the fridge to slow down the process of fermentation anyway. (The more you know!)
• Check your watermelons all over for gashes, scratches, and holes before you add them to your cart at the grocery store.
• If your watermelon starts hissing, gurgling, fizzing, or leaking fluid, carefully transfer it to a trash bag and dispose of it promptly. And even if your watermelon isn't oozing or visibly damaged, do not eat or slice into it if you notice any sort of rotten or "off" smell.