Fruit of the Month: Watermelon

An American favorite for meals and snacks. People can't seem to get enough of the sweet treat, and nutritionists have long appreciated the health benefits watermelon provides. Watermelon contains high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risks of cancer and other diseases.

Watermelon, the fruit that is also a vegetable. Watermelon can be traced back to Africa and is part of the cucumber and squash family. Early watermelons were mainly rind and seeds. Today's varieties are larger, the flesh sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. It is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst quenching fruit of all. Watermelon consists of 92% water and 8% sugar, so it is aptly named. Americans eat over 17 lbs of watermelon each year. The largest one on world record (Guinness Book of World Records) weighed 262 pounds.

When to look for them in your grocery store:

Watermelons are available all year. The natural sweetness of watermelon makes it a favorite anytime of the year. It is a perfect addition to a salad, salsa, or cool drink. Top chunks of sweet watermelon with fruit flavored sherbets or sorbets.

Selecting

Choose firm, symmetrical, fruit free of cracks, bruises, soft spots or mold. Ripe watermelon will have a healthy sheen, a dull rind, dried stem, and a buttery yellow underside where it touched the ground. There should be a melon like smell or fragrance. Thump if you must, sound should be dull and hollow. Lift them, weight should be heavy for size.

Special Tip

Avoid watermelons that are very hard, white or very pale green in color on the underside, indicating immaturity. An immature watermelon will be slightly acidic.

Storing

Once picked, watermelon will not ripen easily. If unripe, try putting the whole melon in paper bag un-refrigerated. This sometimes works to ripen them. Watermelons can be kept for short periods of time, up to 2 weeks, uncut at room temperature. Wash watermelon with soap and water before cutting. Once cut, package what is not eaten in closed plastic containers or bags and put back in the refrigerator.

 

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Varieties

There are more than 50 varieties of watermelon. Most have red flesh, but there are orange and yellow-fleshed varieties. Of the 50 varieties of watermelon throughout the United States, there are four general categories: Allsweet, Ice-Box, Seedless and Yellow Flesh.

AllSweet

* 20–25 pounds

* Red Flesh

* Oblong

* Dark green rind, with or without stripes

Serving suggestion: Surprise your guests by serving a large refreshing wedge of watermelon following a heavy meal. Place the wedge on a plate with a large knife and encourage the entire table to enjoy a slice.

Ice-Box

* 5–15 pounds

* Red or yellow flesh

* Round

* Dark or light green rind

Serving suggestion: Make your salsa or relish really "cool" by substituting watermelon for tomatoes in your favorite recipe. Serve with grilled chicken, fish or pork. Try watermelon salsa with chips, too.

Seedless

* 10–25 pounds

* Red or yellow flesh

* Oval to round

* Light green rind with dark green stripes

Serving suggestion: This variety's perfect for sorbets and beverages. Blend cubes of seedless watermelon and use the juice in margaritas, daiquiris or lemonade for a new twist.

Yellow Flesh

* 10–30 pounds

* Yellow to bright orange flesh

* Oblong to long

* Light green rind with mottled stripes

Serving suggestion: Use for color variety as a garnish or side dish. Create festive fruit kabobs by skewering yellow flesh watermelon with other seasonal fruits, such as kiwis and strawberries.

Recipes

South-of-the-Border Watermelon Walla-Walla Sweet Onion Salsa

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

2 cups chopped watermelon (seeds removed)

3/4 cup chopped Walla Walla Sweet Onion

3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup chopped seeded jalapenõ chilies

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

Stir together all ingredients in bowl. Refrigerate, covered at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Stir before serving.

Nutritional analysis per 1/2-cup serving: Calories 52 , 1Carbohydrate 1g , Proteinv2g, Fat 0.3g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sodium148mg, Cholesterol 0mg.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on March 22, 2016

Sources

SOURCE: CDC web site: "Fruit of the Month: Watermelon."

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