I once had a roommate who would load a pick-up truck with watermelon every 4th of July and drive to our neighborhood park in late afternoon or early evening. He didn’t come home till he’d given away all the watermelon. He called it Watermelon Day and had tee shirts printed, which he gave away as well. I will forever think of July 4th as Watermelon Day. But on a less “official” basis every summer day is watermelon day. I mean if we are going to talk about healthy food in the summertime, watermelon has to be a part of the discussion.
FRUIT OR VEGETABLE
For those of you who like to label things, the debate goes on over how to classify the watermelon. Botanically it is a fruit like a pepper or tomato. It is the fruit of a plant originally from a vine of southern Africa. Watermelon is served like a fruit; it is sweet and juicy and is served fresh either cubed, balled, or sliced.
On the other hand watermelon is part of the cucurbitaceous plant family of gourds (classified as Citrullus lantus) like a cucumber or a pumpkin. It is grown like a vegetable using vegetable production methods. It is planted from seeds or seedlings, harvested, then cleared from the field.
In places like China, Russia, and the southern United States the watermelon rind is served as a vegetable stir fried, stewed, or often pickled. Yes you can eat the rind, and the seeds. A watermelon is 100% eatable. Although I, like most people I know, grew up eating only the flesh and throwing away the rind. As a child I’d pinch the slippery seed to see how far I could shoot them. A treasured goal was the ceiling. But I digress.
Watermelon, whether seedless or not, is NOT GMO. Specific traits are developed through cross breeding.
HOW TO PICK A GOOD WATERMELON
- Look the watermelon over.
You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts, or dents.
- Lift it up.
The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water; most of the weight is water.
- Turn it over.
The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
HOW TO STORE
If you freeze watermelon to be defrosted at a later time it will lose its flavor and texture. However, according to the Watermelon Council you can freeze it if you later serve it frozen. So if you have a large melon and can’t eat it all you can cube the rest and freeze it on wax paper on a cookie sheet. (I imagine the frozen cubes can be stored in a zip lock bag.) Then you can enjoy it at a later time as ice cubes in lemonade or iced tea.
HOW LONG THEY LAST
Once cut from the vine a watermelon will last 3-4 weeks. If you are purchasing one in a grocery store you must keep in mind it may have had to travel a distance to get there which, of course, takes time. This is especially true if you purchase it off season.
HOW LONG WILL A WATERMELON CARVING LAST
You should carve your melon as close to the event as possible. One you cut into the rind it will need to be refrigerated. It will start to lose its structure after a day. You can keep the edges from drying out overnight by covering it with damp paper towels.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
My TCM doctor told me to eat some watermelon every day in the heat of the summer. That’s doctor’s advice it’s a pleasure to follow.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine foods are considered for their energetic properties and watermelon clears heat and is cold in nature. It nourishes the fluids of the body while helping to promote urination; a very effective strategy to help clear summer heat from the body.
A word of caution, though, for those who have a weak digestive system; it is understood in Chinese medicine that cold foods and raw fruits and vegetables are hard on the digestive tract. So if you suffer from gas and bloating you should eat watermelon in moderation. You might also want to consult an acupuncturist to help you remedy that problem.
Watermelon is high in electrolytes; good for helping us stay hydrated. It is also high in carotenoids like lycopene and antioxidants such as vitamin A and C. It doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is high in fiber.
7 FUN FACTS
Here are some fun watermelon facts to impress your picnic guests.
- Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
- Watermelon is grown in over 96 countries worldwide, with the Unites States ranking 5th in worldwide production.
- In China and Japan watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.
- In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.
- The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
- The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
- According to Guinness World Records, the world’s heaviest watermelon was grown by Lloyd Bright of Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 2005, weighing in at 268.8 lbs (121.93 kg). Lloyd grew and weighed in for the Annual Hope, Arkansas Big Watermelon Contest on September 3, 2005.
I’ve tried to cover all the basics here, but must confess I’ve always been a watermelon purist. Do you have any watermelon recipes you’d like to share?
If you’ve found this information interesting or informative please share.