Is there another fruit that announces summer's arrival quite like the watermelon? Believed to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa, were often placed in the burial tombs of Egyptian kings to nourish them in the afterlife. You don’t need to be royalty to enjoy this ancient melon on a hot day.
By weight, watermelon is the most consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. This annual is grown in favorable climates from tropical to temperate regions worldwide for its large edible fruit, which is a berry with a hard rind and no internal divisions.
The sweet, juicy flesh is usually deep red to pink, with many black seeds, although seedless varieties exist. Watermelon flesh can be eaten raw or pickled, and the rind is edible after cooking. Even the seeds, which have a nutty flavor, can be dried and roasted. The fruit is also commonly consumed as a juice or as an ingredient in mixed beverages. We love adding a couple cubes to ice water for a boost of flavor and vitamins.
Storage and Preparation
Uncut watermelon is best stored outside of the fridge as cold temperatures can cause damage to the flesh and affect the flavor. Cut watermelon should be stored in sealed container in the fridge and used within 5 days.
Scrub the watermelon before cutting. Start by cutting off the ends to give the melon a base of support. Take a large sharp knife at an angle, set it where the white rind meets the red flesh on the top of the cut watermelon, begin to cut the rind off. Using the rind as a guide, continue to cut off until the watermelon is rind free. Trim any excess rind from the watermelon and cut it up into strips, cubes, or you can even leave the rind on and cut in triangles!
Watermelon is rich in water and electrolytes, making it a great snack during the summer heat. They are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and thiamine. Watermelon is also an excellent source of antioxidants, particularly lycopene (a compound also found in tomatoes). Antioxidants help prevent damage to cells in the body.
Melons are one of those fruits that are technically a vegetable. They are related to other crops that grow on trailing vines like cucumbers and squash. True cantaloupes are found more widely in Europe and the Middle East. Cantaloupes get their name from a town near Rome named Cantalupo. However, what we call cantaloupes in North America are actually really netted melons. True cantaloupes are smaller and rounder than netted melons and have tougher skin that is either smooth or scaly, nut never netted.
Selection and StorageOne thing everyone asks is how to pick a ripe melon. If you ask ten people they will all tell you something different. My go-to method for cantaloupes is to smell the indentation at the end. If it smells fruity and fragrant (rather than just like rind) than it is usually ready to eat. If not leave it on the counter a few days. For melons with thinner skins, I usually expect them to be somewhat soft on the outside when they are ripe. Not mushy, but not rock hard.
Ripe melons don't last long so eat them as soon as you can. If they aren't quite ripe, you can usually store on the counter until they ripen. Once they are ripe, move them to the fridge and they will be good for a few more days.
A perfect melon really needs very little preparation. Remove the seeds, slice and eat! However, if you want to get creative, here are some other preperation ideas: