What's going on with melons these days? As it turns out, we may be witnessing a big shift in preference, as more people opt for small melons over their larger counterparts. The New York Times takes a look.

Do you like big melons, or small melons? On the one hand, big melons are "just right for greasing up and throwing in a pool." In the other hand, small melons have their advantages: "You can handle them better," according to melon expert Ernest Brown, who doesn't mind that the melons he handles are "just a bit flatter."

But there's a certain nostalgia attached to big melons, especially in places like Arkansas, where melons "grow particularly big and sweet," and in the summer, it used to be routine that kids "went and looked at the giant" melons. Listen to the reminiscences of enthusiast Lloyd Bright:

"When I was growing up, the guys were always talking big melons," said Mr. Bright, a retired biology teacher and school administrator who got into the big-melon game in 1973.

"Larger, more traditional-looking" melons still dominate "the game." But "personal melons"—"round balls of sweet" that fit into the "cute-melon category"—might be the future. Listen to Susan Blew of Franklin Township, NJ:

She's never thought about growing those really big melons... For one thing, the climate's not right. And even if it were, she doubts they would sell.

"People just like a sweet, little melon," she said.

The fact is, there's no clear answer—as expert Terry Kirkpatrick says, "There's big, and then there's good" (though he himself prefers "the old standard" melons, "mainly for nostalgic reasons"), and some small-melons enthusiasts decry the big-melon game as "a chemical-heavy practice."

Whatever size melons you prefer, make sure you're using proper technique. To choose good melons, check their "shape, color and weight and, perhaps, try a thump or a slap." And experiment with different ways of enjoying them, as Times reporter Kim Severson did when she visited Bright:

He cuts out the hearts and puts them in the refrigerator to eat. He says they're delicious, though his monsters weren't ripe when this reporter was standing in his fields late last month, hinting around for a taste.

Just remember: Use a light touch, because bludgeoning something to death is never a good idea. And also: Stay away from low-hanging fruit.