Weighty Watermelon

Watermelon has always been one of my favorite fruits.  When I was much younger, Dad taught me to recall my birthday using bites of watermelon- watermelon meant that much to me.  I remember swimming and chunking the rinds into the lake for the fish to nibble. I remember fireworks and watermelon juice dripping from my chin. I remember bologna sandwiches with large slices of watermelon to go with it on a weekday afternoon.  I remember all kinds of family summer get-togethers and they all included watermelon.  It was always a quintessential summer food.  Sweet and juicy it was, and is, a great way to stay hydrated and cool during the heat of summer.  

The high water content of watermelon keeps you hydrated while also helping you feel full, but there is so much more to this melon.  It contains 21% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin C.  This helps fight free radicals in the body to reduce inflammation and improve circulation and ultimately heart health.  It also contains 18% RDI of Vitamin A.  Vitamin A is important for healthy skin.  It can create new skin cells and help repair damaged cells.  It is also vital to your vision, immune system and reproductive organs.  Ultimately, these nutrients and others in watermelon can help fight inflammation, heart disease and maybe even cancer.  It also helps with healthy skin and hair and better digestion.

To pick the best watermelon, there are a couple things to look for.  First, you want a melon with no bruising, cuts or soft spots.  It will likely have some superficial scratches and that’s ok, but you don’t want anything deep into the rind.  Next, the watermelon should be heavy when lifted.  It’s 92% water so if it’s a lightweight, chances are it’s not very good.  Then, look for a ripening spot on the melon.  This is where it sat on the ground as it ripened.  If it is white, it was not allowed to ripen very long.  You want a yellow ripened spot. If you like the thumping method, listen for a deep, hollow sound. 

Did you know watermelon was Oklahoma’s state vegetable? It’s true!  In 2007, the Oklahoma Senate voted and made watermelon the official vegetable.  While it is technically a fruit of the berry variety, it is a member of the cucumber family.  This is the justification for calling it a vegetable.  Who knew?! Crazy Oklahomans.  Make your grocery list and join me in the kitchen for recipes using this delicious melon, whether you call it a fruit or a vegetable!

Watermelon Sherbet

6 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed or use seedless variety

1½-2 cups heavy cream

¼ cup sugar more or less to taste

Arrange watermelon cubes in single layer on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, about 4 hours. This will allow you to skip the ice cream maker!  Combine frozen watermelon, heavy cream and sugar in blender. Process until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste to see if it’s sweet enough and adjust as needed.  Transfer soft sherbet to an airtight container and freeze until as solid as desired.  About 2 hours will get it frozen solid.  

 

Strawberry Watermelon Salad

½ watermelon, cubed

6-8 strawberries

3-4 mint leaves

pinch of salt

Honey Lime Vinaigrette:

cup honey

¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

tsp. ground nutmeg or cinnamon

¾ cup avocado oil

Place watermelon cubes in large bowl.  Hull and slice strawberries and add to bowl.  Cut mint leaves into slivers and sprinkle on top.  Add pinch of salt.  In small mixing bowl combine honey, lime juice and nutmeg.  Whisk to mix ingredients, add half of oil to honey mixture in thin steady stream. Continue whisking until well mixed, add more oil until you reach desired flavor.  Drizzle over watermelon/strawberry mixture to taste and serve.  If serving the next day, wait to drizzle on vinaigrette until ready to serve.

Recipe adapted from gigglesgalore.net

 

Watermelon-Mint Agua Fresca

2 cups granulated sugar 

1 cup water 

½ cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus more for serving 

8 cups chopped seedless watermelon (about 2½ lb.) 

2 cups water 

¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 3 limes)

Combine sugar and water in saucepan. Cook over high, whisking occasionally, until sugar dissolves, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add mint. Let stand, uncovered, 15 minutes. Strain into bowl and discard mint. Chill syrup until ready to use.  Process watermelon in blender until smooth. Strain into large pitcher (you should have about 4 cups.) and discard solids.  Stir together water, lime juice, 4 cups watermelon juice and ½ cup syrup in pitcher. Taste and adjust flavor as desired.  (Reserve remaining Mint Simple Syrup for another use). Serve over ice, and garnish with mint sprigs if desired.

Recipe adapted from inspiredtaste.net.

 

Watermelon Skewers

15 watermelon cubes

14 feta cubes, about 4ozs depending on how big you cut them

30 blueberries

15 mint leaves, torn in half

Assemble skewers by using toothpicks or kebob skewers to spear watermelon cubes as bottom. Layer feta, 2 blueberries, and mint on top.  Serve cold.