Finally, the wait is over. The hot and long days of Summer yield watermelon. You haven't tasted the sweetest, juiciest watermelon until you’ve tasted a local one ---right off the vine. And no, those foreign March watermelons do not portray any similarities to these ripe beauties I speak of.
The harvesting of watermelon is indicative of summer winding down, and the crisp, breezy days of fall approaching. Watermelon need 3-4 long months of sun in most climates to bear bright juicy flesh. That is why they are truly a seasonal fruit in most climates, only producing fruit once per year. I don't know about you, but I love the anticipation of eating fruit right in season. Waiting for asparagus in spring, or tomatoes in late July, or peaches in August is worth it. With waiting, rather than indulging in bland and mealy fruit from far away, we get to taste the best and the brightest flavors of produce harvested the manner and time of year it was intended by nature. It's worth the wait. In this way, we're limiting our support of produce grown and transported way too many miles away. When seasonal produce is ripe, we eat a lot of it at my house. I always feel like we have to get a whole year’s worth in when it is in season.
Back to watermelon.
Watermelon grow on vines and require a lot of sun and plenty of room to grow. They also love acidic, rich soil filled with nutrients. They grow well in mounds, which allow for the soil to remain warmed and for proper irrigation. Watermelon need to be watered often, especially in warm climates.
Watermelon don't just taste hydrating---they actually are. They contain 92% water, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Pair hydration with some soluble fiber from the melon's sweet juicy flesh and you've got yourself a healthy summer treat. The juicy red flesh of Watermelon are also a great source of beta-carotene and lycopene, which are antioxidants suggested to prevent oxidative stress such as cancer and other diseases. Lycopene is also present in other red-hued fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes. As watermelon is mostly water, it is also low in calories compared to other denser fruits. Consider it guilt-free indulgence. Watermelon contain other health benefits, including satiety—the feeling of being full. This is related to the flesh of watermelon containing soluble fiber.
There are many varieties of watermelon to choose from and no, not all of them bear red flesh! Varieties also include the mango-hued "orange sweet," guava-hued "harmony," lemon-hued "baby doll" and classic red "vanguard." I remember my surprise when we received a yellow hued watermelon in our local CSA (community supported agriculture) box that first year. Make it your goal this year to try sometime new and hunt down a non-red variety.
Craving a juicy watermelon yet? Here are a few simple ways to enjoy one and savor the lazy days of August.
Pair watermelon cubes, fresh mozzarella, basil chiffonade and slices of August's other gem: heirloom tomatoes. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic, and a sprinkle of sea salt and serve at your next dinner party in lieu of a classic salad. This one’s sure to awe your guests.
Add different varieties of watermelon chunks in addition to other fruits of ---perhaps blueberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, or strawberries--- to skewers and serve at your summer BBQ. Garnish with chopped basil for a unique twist.
Throw some watermelon slices on the grill for 2-3 minutes and serve with a squeeze of lime on top for a sweet, citrusy and smoky treat. Enjoy.
Puree chilled watermelon cubes in a blender, add a squeeze or two of lime, and enjoy with a straw.
About Heidi Pflugrath, RDN, CDN
Heidi Pflugrath is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from Bellevue, Washington and writes over at thoughtfulfork.com. She delights in discovering locally-sourced eats, dreaming of travel, taking morning runs, and all things food. She believes balance is key when it comes to eating. And that food is meant to be enjoyed. So if you like it, let's find a way to include it by thoughtfully considering our foods.
Heidi come from a background in food and beverage product development, nutrition marketing, and nutrition analysis/labeling and has since sculpted her role as a Nutrition Consultant, where she loves her work variability and developing relationships with clients. She thrives in conceptualizing nutrition solutions and is committed to making health and nutrition goals adaptable to the individual.