After a long day in the sun, watermelon is a refreshing afternoon snack. Aside from being a satisfying treat, it is also packed with healthy nutrients to give you energy throughout the day. Watermelon is extremely high in lycopene, a phytonutrient that is important for heart and bone health. The part of the fruit closest to the rind, called the “periphery,” is also loaded with vitamin C to keep the immune system running strong all day. Plus, with 92% water content, watermelon also has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce bloating from the summer heat.
It is believed that watermelon originated over 5,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert of Egypt. Historians have found watermelon hieroglyphics on the ancient buildings of African tribes. The people of this era placed watermelons in burial tombs of the noble to promote a nourished afterlife. Next time you take a bite into a juicy watermelon, think of it as eating a royal fruit! These jewels of the fruit world are unique because they require only need three things to grow: sun, bees and water. They are grown in raised beds with fertilized sand, and then bees help to pollinate the fruit. Watermelon grows for about two months, and is ready to harvest in 3 months.
When buying pre-cut watermelon at the grocery store you should look for pieces that are deep in color with dark seeds. If the bottom of the watermelon skin is white or green, then the watermelon probably isn’t ripe yet. When buying a whole watermelon, find one that feels heavy. This signalizes that it is ripe and high in water content. Before you take the watermelon home, give it a thump with your hand and listen for a deep, hollow sound—that’s when you know it’s ripe to eat. At home, store the watermelon at room temperature until it is cut. Once sliced, store it in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator.
There are many ways to eat watermelon throughout the summer and later months. You can cut the watermelon into wedges for snacking at the pool or beach. You can also incorporate your favorite salad dish. Here is a recipe for a thirst-quenching “Watermelon, Arugula Feta Salad”: Ingredients: 3 cups 1-inch watermelon chunks, seeded 1 cup crumbled feta cheese Handful of fresh mint leaves, washed and dried Package of Arugula Lettuce, washed and dried Pinch of salt Drizzle of olive oil Preparation: Cut up mint leaves into desired size. Then, in a large bowl, combine the watermelon, feta, arugula and mint. Sprinkle salt on top and drizzle with olive oil. Serve chilled.
Photo Credit: Melissa Heller, FBM