One of the best things to enjoy on a warm summer day is a cold watermelon. Sweet, hydrating, crisp, refreshing, red (what a beautiful color!) and nutritious -- what could be better? Here are a few helpful tips and musings to make your watermelon experience more complete.
1. My 'no guarantee' tips for picking a winner
Have you seen those square watermelons? Well, these tips won't work for those space-saving fruit, but for your ordinary rounded watermelon these come in handy:
Tapping: Tap the watermelon with the pads of your fingers. A winning watermelon will typically have a slightly hollow sound, like the sound you get when tapping your head rather than tapping your chest.
The all important yellow spot: At the bottom of the watermelon -- where it rested on the ground -- you want to find a yellow or cream-colored spot. If the spot is still white, the watermelon isn’t ripe. Some say this is the most important clue to watermelon goodness.
Firmness: Press your fingers and thumbs into the watermelon’s skin. A good one should be hard all around with no soft spots.
Weight for size: A good watermelon feels heavy for its size.
2. A great recipe for a not-so-great watermelon
Good news: a not-so-sweet watermelon makes a wonderful and easy-to-prepare cold soup. (The cucumber in the recipe masks the cucumberness of the not-so-great watermelon.) It looks like a gazpacho, but is even more refreshing.
Watermelon and mint cold soup
6 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 red onion, diced
1/2 cup young celery stalks, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Puree the watermelon in a food processor, using the “pulse” setting; pulse several times until the watermelon is still chunky and not too smooth.
Transfer the puree to large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until cold (at least an hour).
Garnish with a few leaves of fresh mint and serve.
3. Why's a watermelon good for you?
First and most important – it’s a fruit and it tastes good. Its color brightens up the table.
Watermelon is a low calorie nutritious treat: a one-cup serving of watermelon has only about 50 calories.
Watermelon is 92 percent water so it’s very good for hydration.
It’s an excellent source of vitamins C and A. It’s also a good source of vitamins B6 and B1, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Red watermelon (yes, there’s a yellow-orange type too!) is also a good source of lycopene (a carotenoid antioxidant). In fact, watermelons are a richer source of this beneficial antioxidant than tomatoes.
In a recent New Your Times blog post, Roni Caryn Rabin interviewed experts on lycopene and watermelon health:
"You can get lycopene from tomatoes, particularly cooked and stewed tomatoes, but “on a fresh basis, you can’t do better than watermelon,” said Penelope Perkins-Veazie, a professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh who has studied lycopene and is an unpaid science adviser to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Red watermelon has more lycopene than other watermelon varieties, and “seedless watermelon tends to have more,” she said."
While we mostly eat the flesh of the watermelon, all parts are actually good to eat. The rinds can be stir-fried, stewed or pickled. Watermelon seeds are rich in fat and protein, and can be eaten as a snack (roasted), or made into an oilseed.