Remember spitting watermelon seeds as a kid? Well, nowadays this thirst-quenching melon tends to be seedless. It’s no wonder they are such a great treat on a warm day, being over 92% water! In addition, they are easily transportable in their own protective carrying case, which makes them perfect for summertime picnics. We’ve grown up thinking of it as a fruit, when it is actually a vegetable related to the cucumber. In fact, the relations of the Cucurbitaceae family extend to the cantaloupe, squash pumpkin, other plants that grow on vines along the ground.
You’ll find round, oblong or spherical shapes, ranging in size from a few pounds to upward of fifty pounds. The thick rinds may be yellow, pale, or bright green with darker green stripes, or dark green with lighter green stripes or spots. The juicy flesh is usually sweet and flavourful once ripe with a colouring of either pale pink, bright red, or yellow
Although year round, summertime local harvest provide the most delicious quality and sweet flavour.
Whole watermelon – Ripening will not continue once the watermelon has been picked from the vine. Here are a few things to look for:
Check for a delicate aroma.
The rind – the best indicator – should be neither very shiny nor very dull. The underbelly should be yellowish as opposed to greenish-white to reveal the spot where the melon was resting on the ground during ripening. If this marking is not present, the watermelon may have been harvested prematurely – sacrificing taste, texture and juiciness.
The melon should be heavy for its size, firm, free of cracks, bruises, or soft spots.
Having the stem still attached to the navel is an easy way to detect mould, excessive softness, or if the stem is green or shrivelled being harvested too soon; it should look dry and brown.
Pre-cut watermelon – Inspect the colour and quality of the flesh. It should be firm, juicy and bright red with no apparent white streaks. If seeds are present, select a melon with deeply coloured seeds.
Watermelon that has not yet ripened is used in the same way as summer squash.
Whole watermelon should be refrigerated to keep as long as a week. However, if a whole watermelon is too large to fit in the refrigerator, store in a cool dark area for up to 4 days.
Cut – Eat as soon as possible. Refrigerate leftovers wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container for a couple of days. This will keep the cut watermelon from absorbing the odours of other foods, as well as prevent it from drying out.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Jam, sorbet, and juice are some nutritious and delicious things you can make with watermelon
- Watermelon juice (just throw it in a blender – without the seeds) is thirst quenching and can be frozen and added to lemonade for a colourful contrast or blended into a fruit smoothie
- Lettuce Salad – Cut in half, remove seeds, and use melon-baller to scoop balls or shave delicate slices with knife, and toss with fresh baby romaine, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil
- Cold Soup – Purée watermelon, cantaloupe, and kiwi together and swirl in a little plain yogurt
- Summer Salad – Watermelon mixed with thinly sliced red onion, salt and black pepper
- Roasted watermelon seeds are either seasoned as a snack food or ground up into cereal and used to make bread for an Asian flare
- The rind can be marinated, pickled, or candied to follow South American tradition. Purchasing an organic watermelon is highly suggested
Nature’s most important antioxidants are packed into this fruit: beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin A.
May also help reduce the inflammation involved with asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis. By containing vitamin C and potassium, watermelon is considered a diuretic, and cleansing agent. It is also a very good source of vitamin B6, thiamine and magnesium.
Melon (cantaloupe), 1 cup (approx. 11.5 balls)
Total Fat: 0.45g
*Excellent source of: Vitamin A (5,158 IU), and Vitamin C (67.5mg)
*Good source of: Potassium (494mg)
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.
- Gaining worldwide popularity, this melon originated in Africa. African slave traders introduced the watermelon, first to South America and then to Massachusetts, by the early 17th century. The Americans bred them for size and sweetness, and there are now some 200 varieties grown in at least 44 states, Central and South America, and Canada.
With Egyptian wall paintings depicting the watermelon’s cultivation well before 2000 BC, this melon is definitely the older than cantaloupe and honeydew.
When serving in quite warm room temperatures, it is best to keep watermelon on ice to maintain its refreshing taste.