Native to Africa, the watermelon is one of two broad categories of melon, the other being MUSKMELON. It's considered the less sophisticated of the two because it lacks flavor complexity and has a watery texture. But there are those who wouldn't trade a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day for anything. There are an untold number of watermelon varieties but America's most popular is the large, elongated-oval shape with a variegated or striped, two-tone green or gray-green rind. It averages 15 to 35 pounds but may be much smaller or larger, depending on the variety. There are even relatively tiny varieties about the size of a medium cantaloupe. An abundance of shiny, black seeds dot the sweet, red, refreshingly moist flesh. Other watermelon varieties have flesh that ranges in color from white to yellow to pink. The seeds may be speckled or solid and variously colored — black, brown, green, red or white. Seedless watermelons actually do, more often than not, have a few scattered seeds. What seeds there are, however, are small, soft and edible. All parts of the watermelon can be used. Asians love the roasted seeds, and the pickled rind is a favorite in many parts of the world.
Watermelons are available May to September, though they're at their peak from mid-June to late August. They're sold whole as well as in halves, quarters or by the slice. Look for symmetrical melons without any flat sides. Depending on the variety, the shape can be round or an oblong oval. Slap the side of the watermelon — if it resounds with a hollow thump, it's a good indicator that the melon is ripe. The rind should be dull (not shiny) and just barely yield to pressure. Never take home a melon with soft spots, gashes or other blemishes on the rind. Cut watermelons should display a brightly colored flesh. An abundance of small, white seeds means the melon is immature. Avoid cut melons with a grainy or dry-looking flesh. Store whole watermelon in the refrigerator if at all possible and keep no more than a week. If it's too large for your unit, keep in a cool, dark place. Cut watermelon should always be tightly wrapped, refrigerated and used within a day or so. It should be served cold, either in wedges or made into balls and served as part of a fruit cup or salad. Watermelon contains a fair amount of vitamins A and C. See also MELON.
© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
It's watermelon season and I brought one home from my CSA on Tuesday. Tomorrow Cooper is going over to Mike's (or Bill's) for a guys' night/poker game, so Dixon and I will be entertaining the ladies and children. I guess I could just cut up the watermelon for the kids...but instead I'm going to make this Chowhound recipe for drunken watermelon pops.
We'll just have to figure something else out for the kids.