Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Year of the Watermelon

Did you know that July is National Watermelon month?
And that August 3rd is National Watermelon Day?
OK, that makes no sense whatsoever, so let's just make 2017 The Year of the Watermelon.

This is a tasty year for the fruit that was made for summer. Or was summer made for watermelon? It's cheap, it's easy, most everyone likes it, you don't have to cook it, or hardly give it one little thought when it's so hot outside that thinking is a luxury.

Recently I was at a catered event. There were ribs, there were salads, both green and potato, there were beans, both bacon flavored and vegan, and there was corn. And then there were those plastic tubs of prechopped fruit. You know the ones - one compartment has under-ripe, tasteless and crunchy honeydew melon, the other has under-ripe, tasteless and crunchy cantaloupe, there's a compartment for mushy watermelon and the middle has a cluster of grapes that comes up in one big batch that makes you look like a fruit hog in the food line.

Why the bad melon when we're having one of the best watermelon years in living memory? The melons of 2017 are juicy and crunchy and sweet and it seems hard to pick a bad one. Here are some tips from the National Watermelon Association on how to look like an expert as you stand in front of the giant vats of watermelon in the produce aisle.

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3.
  1. Look the watermelon over.
    You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents.
  2. Lift it up.
    The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water, most of the weight is water.
  3. Turn it over.
    The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Imagine that, no thumping or tapping or thwonking that poor melon to find a good one, we just have to pick it up and look at its little melon bottom. Of course, if it makes you feel better and you're frustrated at how your summer's going so far, it won't hurt one bit to give it a good kerplunk with an open palm. If you do it with enough confidence and say "Here's a good one" to no one in particular, fellow shoppers will pick up your thwonking technique as if you're some kind of watermelon guru. 

Some more fun watermelon facts:

The US is 5th in world watermelon production. 
The biggest watermelon ever grown weighed 350 pounds.
Seedless watermelon is not a GMO product, it's a natural hybrid.
They have more lycopene than tomatoes.
They need to be washed.
Watermelons need four things: sun, bees, water and 60 days to grow.

Let's ditch the precut up mushy stuff and buy the melons that come in their own compostable covers. They can sit around for a few weeks unrefrigerated, if they last that long. There are some cute ways to cut them and serve them to a crowd, but typically not much skill is involved. No one ever left a picnic or bar-b-que and said "Wow, that watermelon was cut very badly." 

We're planning on eating as much as we can, because when you have a great watermelon year, it must be celebrated!

It's Lycopene Palooza season.

Fruit with its own handles.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds!