Watermelon: A tasty, nutrient-rich way to stay hydrated in warm weather.
By Lisa James
It’s a summertime ritual enacted each year in backyards across America: After the coals in the grill have died down to gray ash, someone breaks out the watermelon and a big knife, and everyone crowds around in anticipation of a juicy treat as another hot day fades into long twilight.
The copious moisture content of watermelon, 92% of the fruit’s weight, is the leading reason people buy it, says the National Watermelon Promotion Board. But consumers are becoming increasingly aware of watermelon’s nutritional benefits. What’s more, watermelon is being seen as a more versatile ingredient than it’s usually given credit for.
In addition to providing potassium and vitamin C, watermelon contains lycopene. This carotenoid, responsible for watermelon’s rosy color, acts as an antioxidant and is believed to help protect against heart disease; in animal studies it has reduced atherosclerosis and blood pressure. Watermelon also contains the amino acids arginine and citrulline, which both promote proper blood flow.
The large, oblong watermelons that seem to appear at every picnic have been joined on store shelves by other varieties. Some are seedless. Others, called “icebox” types, weigh only 5 to 10 pounds, versus the 20 to 45 pounds attained by some larger varieties. And some sport yellow or orange flesh, either with or without seeds. Domestic production lasts from April through November, with imported watermelons available the rest of the year.
When buying watermelon, look for fruits that are free of bruises, cracks, mold and soft spots, and are heavy for their size. Watermelon doesn’t really ripen after picking, so check the bottom for a yellow spot where it sat on the ground while maturing. Some people swear by thumping, flicking the middle finger off the thumb to check for a deep thudding sound. Wash before cutting, and wrap and refrigerate uneaten portions promptly.
In addition to out-of-hand eating, watermelon makes a refreshing addition to salsas, sauces, drinks, salads, sorbets and ices. It can also be used in cold soups, and the rind can be pickled. Larger melons can be carved into baskets to hold fruit salads.
Watermelon makes a perfect ending to a backyard barbecue or family outing—and an intriguing kitchen ingredient as well.
Grilled Spicy Watermelon
1 tbsp lime zest (preferably from an organic lime)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp garlic chili sauce
1 pinch salt
1 medium-sized watermelon
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
1. Preheat grill to high. In a small bowl, whisk together lime zest, juice,
3 tbsp of the honey, garlic chili sauce and salt.
2. Cut watermelon into 1” thick wedges. Lightly drizzle each side with
remaining honey and place on grill. Grill until just browned, about
2 minutes per side.
3. Place watermelon slices on a plate and drizzle with lime dressing.
Garnish with cilantro.
Serves 8-10. Analysis per serving: 120 calories, 2g protein, 0g fat, 1g fiber,
31g carbohydrate, 45 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission from the National
Watermelon Promotion Board