Did you know that a watermelon is made up of about 92% water? Watermelon can actually be traced back thousands of years to a desert in southern Africa and is now grown in over 96 countries around the world. This delicious fruit is now coming into season in North America and can be found in farmer's markets and grocery stores.
Two cups of watermelon contain only 80 calories with zero fat, very low sodium and no cholesterol. Watermelon is a good source of potassium and vitamins A and C. It contains the phytochemical lycopene, which may help prevent certain cancers. This phytochemical, which gives watermelon its red color, is also found in tomatoes, guava and red grapefruit.
Select the perfect watermelon
Choose a whole watermelon that is free of blemishes like cuts or bruises. Ideally, it should have a nice yellow spot on the bottom or its belly - this is from sitting on the ground and ripening in the sun. Pick up the watermelon - it should be heavy for its size. When choosing a precut watermelon, look for one that has a nice red color and smooth surface. Seedless watermelon is becoming popular and is just as sweet as regular. You might want to try yellow watermelon for variety - it is often equally as sweet as red watermelon.
Store and handle properly
Surprisingly, whole watermelon does better when it is stored at room temperature versus being put in the refrigerator. So when you bring an uncut watermelon home, keep it in a cool dry place in your kitchen until you cut it. After it is cut, it should be wrapped or put in a covered container and refrigerated until gobbled up.
Slice or cube?
Before cutting your watermelon, be sure to wash your hands and wash the melon under cold running water, using a clean brush to remove excess dirt.
You can cut the watermelon several ways. Always use a clean, sharp knife and a large clean cutting board that is secured to the counter with a wet paper towel to cut your watermelon. A strong adult should do this.
1) Cut in wedges - this is easy - cut the whole watermelon in half lengthwise and then in half again. Cut each quarter into slices and you will have triangle shaped wedges.
2) Cut in cubes - this is best accomplished by cutting the ends off the watermelon. Turn the watermelon on one end and peel off the rind with a sharp knife - cutting all the way around. Next, cut in round slices, stack a few of them and cut into cubes.
3) Balls - use a melon baller or ice cream scoop to cut the melon into balls. The best way to start is to cut the watermelon in half lengthwise then scrape the pulp out with a melon baller. You can use the empty rind as a boat for the watermelon or fruit salad.
Create a delicious treat
Create simple masterpieces in your kitchen using watermelon. Here are a few ideas:
• When cut in cubes, watermelon can be threaded onto bamboo skewers along with other fruits for colorful kabobs.
• Cubes of watermelon can be placed on a wooden stick and frozen for a watermelon pop.
• Seeded watermelon can be mixed with a little lemonade in a blender for a refreshing drink.
• Make a watermelon sundae. Serve large scoops of watermelon in a sundae bowl with blueberries and fresh fat-free whipped cream.
• Make watermelon cupcakes. Place watermelon cubes in waxed paper cups. Top with fat-free cool whip and fresh fruit like strawberries and kiwis.
• Watermelon salsa is delicious served over grilled fish or with chips. Cut watermelon into small cubes. Strain and reserve the juice for another use. Mix the cubes with equal parts chopped tomatoes and a little chopped green onion and chili pepper. Season with cumin and hot pepper sauce.
• Enjoy a gelatin dessert. Add watermelon cubes to gelatin mix and or top your desserts with watermelon.
• Partially freeze slices of watermelon. Serve with a wedge of fresh lime. This makes a great treat after a morning workout, especially in the summer.
Tips, recipes and fun facts can be found at www.watermelon.org.
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.