The heaviest watermelon ever recorded weighed a beastly 268.8 pounds, a record set by Lloyd Bright in Hope, Arkansas, in 2005. No disrespect to Mr. Bright, but we’d much prefer the small but mighty Sugar Baby, a refrigerator-friendly six- to ten-pounder you’ll often find at Southern roadside stands. “This one’s sweeter than other varieties, and the size makes it kind of perfect,” says chef Brian Sonoskus, of Tupelo Honey Café in Asheville, North Carolina.
August is prime time for Sugar Babies, but pick carefully. Look for a dull, dark-green rind devoid of the stripes found on the fruit’s bigger brethren. Sonoskus recommends using the melons to make granitas: Puree the pulp, add a little sugar syrup and lemon juice, then put it in a pan and freeze. Scrape it out and serve it like sorbet. Or stick melon slices on the grill until they begin to caramelize, and serve them over a chopped salad with strawberry vinaigrette. Of course, it doesn’t get more summery than just cutting one open and digging in. “When they have reached their full sweet potential,” Sonoskus says, “there’s nothing better at the end of a hot day.”