- Watermelon production, which climbed to 4.1 billion pounds in 2010, reaches its peak this week as Americans flood the grocery stores to prepare for picnics, barbeques and parties to celebrate the Fourth of July.
, author of the best-selling book "The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving," and founder of Qualipedia - the definitive source for making choices daily that count, offers the following tips on how to select the ripest watermelon, fun ways to serve it, how to store it, watermelon games and wacky facts that will help make celebrating Americas independence that much sweeter this year.
Five Tips For Selecting A Ripe, Flavorful Watermelon
• Look for a watermelon that has bright skin, is firm, symmetrical, and free of cuts.
• Find one that feels heavy for its size; "water." Melons contain more than 90 percent and the ripest ones have the most water.
• Should not be narrower on one end or misshapen; this could mean it grew in fits and starts.
• The underside should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun - rather than being picked early.
• Position the melon two inches from your ear, thump or tap it with your free hand. If not ripe enough, it will sound solid; if too ripe, it will sound thick; if perfect, it will resonate as hollow.
Fun Ways To Use And Serve Watermelon
Every part of a watermelon is edible! Fill it with your favorite punch, attach a faucet, and you have a watermelon keg! Freeze watermelon juice in ice cube trays to add to lemonades and fruit punches. Stick popsicle stick into a wedge, dip into sugar and freeze for a watermelon popsicle. Make chilled watermelon soup. Use the cut shell to hold a fruit salad. Cut watermelon squares for use in martinis or fruit drinks. Many eaters lightly salt their melon to bring out the flavor. It is sometimes paired with honey or lime and served either cold or grilled. Watermelons are often eaten with feta cheese in Israel and Egypt. Use slices as coasters.
Have a watermelon carving party - there are several websites, including the National Watermelon Promotion Board that have designs, pictures and instructions to make airplanes, birthday cakes, rabbits, football helmets, sharks and more. Sponsor a watermelon seed spitting contest. Make watermelon checkers for outdoor game playing.
How To Store
Keep them a bit cooler than room temperature and refrigerate only for a few hours. While refrigeration keeps them from rotting, it also degrades both flavor and texture, characteristics that start to deteriorate as soon as watermelons are picked. Cut watermelons should be wrapped in plastic before refrigeration to preserve their taste without absorbing odors from other food.
Although a watermelon contains about six percent sugar and 92 percent water by weight, it has the most nutrition per calorie of common foods. Health-wise a one-cup serving of watermelon will provide around 48 calories. An excellent source of vitamins A and C, it also provides significant amounts of vitamin B6 and B1 as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium. Watermelon is mildly diuretic.
The first recorded watermelon harvest
was depicted on the walls of ancient buildings in Egyptian hieroglyphics over 5,000 years ago. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife; numerous watermelon seeds were found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen (King Tut). According to the Guinness
Book of Records, the largest watermelon, weighing 262 pounds, was grown in 1990 in Tennessee. A tradition of hollowing out a watermelon to wear as a makeshift football helmet was started by fans of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. During the 2009 Grey Cup in Calgary, thousands of watermelons had to be imported to Calgary supermarkets to satisfy the demands of Roughrider's fans. The eating of watermelon seeds as a snack is an important part of the Vietnamese New Year's celebration.