August 3 is National Watermelon Day, a time set aside to celebrate the signature fruit of summer. At 92% water, only about 17 cents per serving, and with no fat or sodium, healthy watermelon packs vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, along with potassium and fiber. All told, a two-cup serving contains only 80 calories.
All grown up
Seeds found in the tombs of the Pharaohs show that the Egyptians, who first harvested watermelon nearly 5,000 years ago, were big fans. You’ll find watermelon in cuisines from Southeast Asia, Africa, and Russia, and other countries. Plenty of these recipes take full advantage of watermelon’s zero-waste, 100% edible properties. They’ve been stir-fried and stewed, and their rinds have even been turned into pickles.
Today’s commercial watermelon crops grow in rows—planted in well-drained, raised beds of sandy soil—and they’re available all year. From seed or seedling to harvest, watermelon crops require about three months to grow and mature, after which they’re hand picked. The U.S. ranks as the world’s seventh-largest watermelon producer.
Not sure how to choose the right melon?
Look for one that’s symmetrical, whether it’s round, oblong, or oval, with a dried stem and a creamy yellow patch on the underside. That yellow—called a field spot or ground spot—is the side where the melon was setting in the field. If it’s white, the melon isn’t ripe. Along with these visual characteristics, a ripe watermelon will feel heavier than it looks because of the plentiful juice inside. Don’t worry if you purchase seedless watermelon and find what looks like white seeds inside—they’re just empty seed coats that didn’t mature, and they’re OK to eat.
Prepare to enjoy
Once you’re ready to use your watermelon, wash it first, and always use a clean knife to avoid introducing bacteria into your food. If you cut open a watermelon and find cracks in the flesh, don’t worry. This condition, called Hollow Heart, is just a byproduct of growing conditions, and it’s not only safe to eat, it may taste sweeter along the cracked areas.
Looking for new ways to add watermelon to your menus? Here are some great recipe ideas.
With cantaloupe and honeydew melon as well as pineapple, peaches, or nectarines, and your choice of blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, this elegantly carved basket uses a light dressing of lime and honey to make a delicious no-cooking-required side dish that suits any meal. And it’ll, for sure, brighten up a rainy day!
Light and savory with a balanced sweetness, you can make this cool soup a couple of days before you eat it. Blend watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, and garlic with fresh mint, olive oil, your favorite vinegar, and a little seasoning. Then chill and serve.
This bright, spicy salsa takes minutes to make and comes with a nice kick of jalapeño along with tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Want to skip the salt? Try lemon juice instead.
Here’s a dessert that’s as beautiful as it is tasty and healthful, with a slice of kiwi fruit surrounded by blended watermelon in a frozen treat.