It’s watermelon season! Ok, I might be too excited about this, but it’s only because watermelon is one of my favorite fruits! I have fond memories of eating watermelon all summer when I was a child. My grandparents had a field where they were growing melons and watermelons and I still remember how we used to go to the field and help them collect and mostly – eat melons until we couldn’t move! 🙂 As time passes I am getting more and more nostalgic of these days. We were always quite close to fruits and vegetables, as my grandparents were growing so many things, and it was so much fun picking them when they were ripe and juicy, for my grandmother to prepare a fresh and delicious meal. It is so true that food is tightly connected to emotion, and I am pretty aware that I love watermelons so much for the fond summer memories I have with them. 🙂 Anyways, before I get too nostalgic let me tell you more about this sweet and delicious fruit.
The first recorded harvest of watermelons is in Egypt, giving watermelon its African roots. It was then brought to Europe and the New World. Watermelon is a family member of the Cucurbitaceaefamily, making it a relative to cucumbers, squash and pumpkin. I guess this would mean that technically watermelon is a vegetable! It grows on vines, and since it can get quite heavy, it rests on the ground, where it matures. As with many fruits, watermelons need the help of honeybees to pollinate them. It takes about three months for a watermelon to mature, and they grow best in a warm and sunny climate. They start coming in season in June and July, but really are in peak in August (that’s when I eat the sweetest, juiciest watermelons in Bulgaria!) You can eat all parts of the watermelon, seeds and rinds included, but they might not be as tasty as the juicy flesh.
If this is not the perfect summer fruit, than I don’t know what is! About 92% of watermelon is water, making it the perfect snack to quench your thirst and to keep you hydrated. The rest is packed with nutrients. The antioxidant lycopene is abundant in watermelon, giving it its nice pink/red colour. Lycopene fights inflammation in the body and helps neutralize free radicals. A good source of vitamin C and vitamin A, also antioxidants, watermelon helps produce antibodies and boost eye health. It doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is a good source of potassium too. Watermelon also contains a chemical, called citrulline, which is converted in the kidneys to arginine – an amino acid – important for heart health and maintaining a healthy immune system. This conversion to arginine also keeps fat from accumulating in the cells, making watermelon a great choice for weight loss and detoxification. To obtain more nutrients, make sure you eat a fully ripened watermelon and don’t be shy to eat some of the watermelon rind, as it too contains lots of nutrients.
How to select and store
When selecting a watermelon, pick it up. It should feel heavy for its size. Look for a yellow spot – this is where the watermelon was resting on the ground. When the spot is creamy yellow (better than a white spot), it means it’s ripe. And lastly, give it a sound check. Ripe watermelons have a hollow sound when you tap or slap on the outside.
It’s best to store your watermelon in the fridge, especially once it has been cut. It can be kept in the fridge when uncut for up to two weeks. If you cut it, make sure you wrap the cut side well, store in the fridge and consume within three days. There’s nothing better than a cold watermelon slice on a hot day!
Watermelon is best consumed on its own and on an empty stomach (find out why here). I do not recommend you eating watermelon as a dessert, as it will cause digestive issues and might make you bloated. You could also blend it with some lime juice and mint for a refreshing drink. In Bulgaria it is often served with some feta, as the sweet taste of the melon complements the saltiness of the feta, but again, it might not be the best combination for your optimal digestion.
Are you a fan of watermelons too? What is your favorite summer fruit?