Watermelon is one of the best parts of summer. As a child on a hot, humid summer day, nothing was better than sitting down on the back steps of our house with a cold slice of watermelon so big it took two hands to hold it.

After eating those slices of sweetness, my sisters and I were often sticky messes in need of a good rinse off before we were allowed back in the house. That’s when the nearby hose was turned on and we rinsed off our hands, arms up to our elbows and faces. Eating the melon and rinsing off were both great ways to cool off on a hot summer day.

I remember my Grandmother picking out watermelon. She felt a bit of pressure to find a good one because she had a reputation of being able to find sweet, fantastic melons that were perfect. I sometimes accompanied her on her search and the process fascinated me. She would lift the fruit to test for weight in comparison to size and thump the melon to hear how ripe it was.

Grandma had an aid that we don’t see in our markets anymore – sellers were willing to plug a melon so you could sample a specific fruit before you bought it. The produce manager or roadside stand attendee would take a knife and cut a small triangle into the chosen melon and allow you to examine the inner flesh and taste it for ripeness and sweetness. That made picking out a great melon much easier.

I don’t remember any recent opportunities to plug a melon and for very good reasons. We now know that we should always wash a melon well before cutting into it to prevent any transfer of bacteria on the outside of the melon to the fruit. Plugging fruit also increases the risk of cross contamination of bacteria from one melon to another.

I manage to pick out pretty good melons by checking for a rind that is firm and free of soft spots or bruises and with an even green color. I look for a nice creamy yellow color on the spot where the melon sat on the ground as it grew and ripened in the sun. If that spot is green or white, it may have been picked too soon or too late. Since watermelon is over 90% water, I want it to be very heavy for its size to ensure it’s going to be very juicy.

Thumping a melon is another technique that many folks use to determine a melon’s ripeness. There is great difference of opinion on what sound you should listen for while you tap on the melon. Some folks say it should sound hollow – others say if it sounds hollow it is too ripe. I’ve heard it said the melon should sound tight, but I’m not sure I know what tight sounds like. My advice is to experiment with tapping and come up with your own personal sound preference because I think the process of determining a ripe sound is too subjective to accurately describe. So, while I know what sound I listen for when I thump a melon, I have no idea how to describe it so you can hear it too.

Watermelon is a healthful addition to our summer diets because it is rich in carotenoids that are healthful nutritive substances in plants. Some of the carotenoids in watermelon include lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein. These vitamins are thought to be an aid to eye and cardiovascular health. Watermelon is also high in vitamins B6, A and C.

Since watermelon is 92% water, it is a wonderful way to stay hydrated during hot weather workouts. I love to come indoors after an afternoon gardening session and have a bowl of watermelon cubes for a refreshing treat.

I enjoy looking for new recipes to enjoy an old favorite food. Watermelon.org is the website dedicated to all facts of watermelon. It is run by the Watermelon Board and is a great resource for ideas to use this fruit.

While exploring the site, I found several new-to-me recipes that I will try before summer’s end. The Fire and Ice Salsa is a great twist to an old favorite. I have tried pineapple salsa before with great results and this recipe sounds like additional way to enhance grilled salmon.

If you’ve ever wondered what to do with that melon that was a bit overripe and mushy, watermelon juice is the answer according to the website. I have had melons that were left a day or two too long in the refrigerator and I now have a way to enjoy them. That’s a win for me because I hate food waste.

I did try the watermelon lemonade. I didn’t have agave syrup so I used a bit of sugar but I didn’t use very much since the watermelon I used was plenty sweet.

I have not tried the watermelon rind stir fry but I included it because it was so unusual! I will put this on my “try it sometime” list and I thought you might want to as well.

Quote of the Week: When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat. — Mark Twain

Satisfy your cravings with our food & drink newsletter!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.


Load comments