The watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) ranges in size from a few pounds to upward of 90 pounds/40 kilograms. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, and other plants that grow on vines on the ground.
The watermelon most commonly consumed is round, oblong, or spherical in shape and light to dark green in color, with white stripes or mottling. Its ﬂesh is bright red, and it has dark brown or black seeds. The ﬂesh may also be pink, orange, yellow, or white; the seeds can be brown, white, green, or yellow; and a few varieties are actually seedless.
History of Watermelons
Watermelons are native to the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa. The ﬁrst recorded watermelon crop was found in Egypt, as it was depicted in hieroglyphics on tomb walls dating back as far as 3000 B.C.E. Being held in such high regard, watermelons were left as food to nourish the dead in the afterlife. From Egypt, watermelons spread throughout countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchants.
They were documented in China in the tenth century, and in the thirteenth century they were introduced to the rest of Europe by the Moors. Ultimately, the watermelon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made its way to North America with the African slaves.
It wasn’t until 1615, however, that the word “watermelon” ﬁrst appeared in the English dictionary. Presently, the Russian Federation grows much of the commercial supply of watermelon. People there even make a very popular wine of watermelons. The other world watermelon- producing leaders are China, Turkey, Iran, and the United States.
Nutritional Highlights for Watermelons
Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92 percent. It is very low in calories, with one cup (154 grams) of watermelon containing only 48 calories, yet is still a very good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lycopene. In fact, one cup of watermelon provides 19.5 percent of the daily value of vitamin C and, through its beta-carotene, 13.9 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It is also a good source of vitamins B 1 and B 6, pantothenic acid, biotin, magnesium, potassium, and dietary ﬁber.
Health Benefits Watermelon, as its name implies, is a good source of pure water and an excellent diuretic. Because it has such a high water content and lower calorie content than many other fruits, it delivers more nutrients per calorie, which is an outstanding health beneﬁt. It is packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature, including lycopene the red carotenoid pigment that also gives tomatoes their red color.
How To Select And Store Watermelons
People tap on Watermelons to determine if they sound hollow and are therefore ripe; however, this practice does not always meet with success. Instead, look for Watermelons that have a smooth surface and a cream-colored underbelly. Despite the best precautions, however, it is difﬁcult to judge the quality of a watermelon without cutting it in half. When cut, indicators of a good watermelon include ﬁrm, juicy red ﬂesh and dark brown to black seeds. The presence of white streaks in the ﬂesh or white seeds usually indicates immaturity.
Watermelons should be refrigerated in order to best preserve their freshness, taste, and juiciness. If the whole watermelon does not ﬁt in your refrigerator, cut it into pieces (as few as possible), and cover them with cling ﬁlm to prevent them from becoming dried out and from absorbing the odors of other foods.
Tips For Preparing Watermelons
Melons grow resting on the ground, which means their rinds can become contaminated by animal or human waste, or contamination can be transferred from the harvesters’ or other handler’s hands to the melon. Unless the skin is thoroughly cleansed, the knife used to halve a melon can transfer pathogens, such as Salmonella, directly onto the ﬂesh. For this reason, all melons should be sprayed with a solution of diluted additive-free soap or commercial produce wash.
Due to its large size, you will probably not be able to rinse a watermelon under water in the sink. Instead, wash it with a wet cloth or paper towel. Be sure also to wash surfaces that have come into contact with the unwashed melon, such as hands and cutting boards.
Depending upon the size you desire, there are many ways to cut a watermelon. The ﬂesh can be sliced, cubed, or scooped into balls. Watermelon is delicious to eat as is, but it also makes a delightful addition to a fruit salad. In addition, jam, sorbet, and juice are some nutritious and delicious things you can make with watermelon. Moreover, while many people are accustomed to eating only the juicy ﬂesh, both the seeds and the rind are also edible.
Quick Serving Ideas for Watermelons
- Watermelon can be eaten on its own, used in fruit salads, or juiced.
- Freeze puréed watermelon in ice cube trays. Once frozen, gently blend in a food processor to create a frozen granita dessert treat.
- In Asian countries, roasted watermelon seeds are either seasoned and eaten as a snack food or ground up into cereal and used to make bread.
- A featured item of southern American cooking, the rind of watermelon can be marinated, pickled, or candied.
- Purée watermelon, cantaloupe, and kiwifruit together. Swirl in a little plain yogurt, and serve as a refreshing cold soup.
Since melons, in general, are among the foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found, we recommend buying organically grown melons.