Watermelon is delicious as well as nutritious
August 13, 2013 1:14PM
Updated: September 15, 2013 6:16AM
Watermelon is truly one of summertime’s sweetest treats. It is fun to eat, and good for you.
Watermelon seeds were brought to this country by African slaves. Today there are more than 100 different varieties of watermelons. The flesh may be red, pink, orange or yellow. There are seedless varieties and super-sweet round ones that fit nicely into the refrigerator.
Producing a good watermelon is a bit tricky in the short northern season. The sweetest watermelons grow during long hot summers. Harvesting is particularly critical because watermelons do not continue to ripen after they have been removed from the vine. They should be picked at full maturity. No amount of thumping, taping, sniffing, or shaking can actually give a clue to ripeness.
Look for melons that are very heavy and have a hard rind. Ninety percent of watermelon is water. The rind color should be right for the variety with a waxy bloom.
Probably the most important indicator of ripeness is the underside which sets on the ground. Turn the melon over. It should be yellow or creamy colored on the underside. If it is white or pale green the melon is not ready to harvest.
The flesh should be deep colored with mature seeds. Most watermelons have dark brown or black seeds. The seedless variety produces a few white seeds. Once picked, uncut watermelon can be stored for about two weeks at room temperature especially if the temperature is about 45 to 50 degrees.
Uncut watermelons have a shorter refrigerator life, so store at room temperature until ready to chill and eat. Tightly cover cut pieces in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Nutritional value and health benefits
Watermelons are low in calories and very nutritious. Watermelon is high in lycopene, second only to tomatoes.
Recent research suggests that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, is effective in preventing some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, men who consumed a lycopene-rich diet were half as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who had little or no lycopene in their diets.
Watermelon is also high in vitamin C and vitamin A, in the form of disease fighting beta-carotene.
Research also suggests that the red pigmented foods provide this protection. Lycopene and beta-carotene work in conjunction with other plant chemicals not found in vitamin/mineral supplements.
Potassium is also available, which is believed to help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes.
Preparation and serving
The National Watermelon Promotion Board suggests washing whole watermelons with clean water before slicing to remove potential bacteria. The flavor of watermelon is best enjoyed raw. Heating diminishes the flavor and softens the texture. Watermelon tastes best icy cold in fruit smoothies, slushes or simply eaten from the rind.
To make melon balls, cut the watermelon in half lengthwise then into quarters.
Watermelon balls can be scooped right out of rind. Create perfect balls, using a melon baller, and a twist of the wrist. The watermelon shell can be used to hold the melon balls as well as other fruit. Watermelon punch is also served from the hallow rind. By sitting the round end inside a ring or bowl, the shell will remain stable during serving.
To remove seeds, cut each quarter in half again. With the flesh of each wedge on top and the rind sitting on the counter, look for the row of seeds along the flesh of each wedge.
Using a sharp knife, cut along the seed line and remove the flesh just above it. Scrape the seeds from the remaining piece.