Seasonal Fruit: Watermelon

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Seasonal Fruit: Watermelon

By Paula Deen Test Kitchen

“When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.” Mark Twain

Crisp, juicy, and sweet, this delicious thirst-quencher is summer’s answer to candy.

History:
Early explorers may have used watermelons as canteens, but we prefer to eat them. And every part of the Watermelon is completely edible. Most of us enjoy the juicy flesh, but the seeds are delicious sprinkled with salt and roasted. And most notably in Southern cooking is the rind, which is just delicious pickled or candied. 

With bathing suit season in full swing, and while ice cream may be a cooling treat, watermelon is not only fat-free and figure friendly, but its loaded with vitamins C and A and high in lycopene second only to tomatoes.

Watermelon is cousin to cantaloupe, cucumbers, and squash, along with other ground plants that grow on vines. Oblong or round, with or without seeds, the weight of watermelon varies. With a little TLC, a watermelon can grow up to 100 pounds. However, most make it to market weighing between 10 – 15 pounds.

Mini or personal-sized watermelons are small and round and weigh anywhere from 1 to 5 pounds. They may have either red or yellow flesh with small, white, edible seeds. And since they are small, they conveniently take up less space in the refrigerator.

Selecting:
When choosing watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size – it is after all 95% water! The rind should be relatively smooth, and the underside of the melon should have a creamy yellow area from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. If the fruit does not have this marking, it may have been picked too early, which will affect its taste and juiciness. To find out if a watermelon is ripe, knock it, if it sounds hollow then it is ripe. If buying pre-cut watermelon, make sure the flesh is dense and firm. 

Storing:
Whole melons will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week. Once cut, keep them wrapped or cut up in containers in the refrigerator. Avoid freezing watermelon, as this will make it mealy and mushy. If the whole watermelon does not fit in your refrigerator, cut it into smaller pieces and cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from becoming dried out and from absorbing odors of other foods.

Chill out with some of our juicy watermelon recipes. Paula’s Easy Watermelon Dessert, is a cooling combination of watermelon chunks drizzled with pineapple juice, honey, lime juice and ginger. For the best of sweet and salty, our tangy Watermelon Salad with Mint leaves, combines thin slices of sweet Vidalia onion, feta cheese, and mint, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette – a refreshing first course or simple side dish. Make the most of the season with our Chilled Grilled Watermelon Salad, fresh shucked sweet corn, chunks of watermelon, and cilantro tossed in a little rice vinegar. Our easy blender Watermelon Cooler, with lemon sorbet, lemon zest, and mint served over lots of crushed ice is just the thing to quench your thirst. 

Now go ahead and carve out a smile.

Paula’s favorite Watermelon recipes for you to try:
Watermelon Cooler
Watermelon Salad with Mint leaves
Chilled Grilled Watermelon Salad
Paula’s Easy Watermelon Dessert
Watermelon Punch
Pickled Watermelon Rind

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

Dear Paula,

  Did you know that you can also toast watermelon seeds in the oven? They taste kinda like unpopped popcorn kernels,but you can chew them like pumpkin seeds.All you do is dry them out and put a little olive oil,salt,and pepper on them.Try it sometime.

By Jill Allred on July 27, 2010

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