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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* 20–25 pounds
* Red Flesh
* 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.
* 5–15 pounds
* Red or yellow flesh
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
South-of-the-Border Watermelon Walla-Walla Sweet Onion Salsa
Makes 4 servings.
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.