When I think of summer, a few things come to mind and one of them is watermelon! This delicious fruit brings back so many memories of my childhood, especially being away at camp and the excitement of having fresh, sweet watermelon after dinner on warm summer nights. The watermelon is also a nutritional powerhouse filled with cancer-fighting vitamins and antioxidants.
A few facts: Originally from South Africa, the watermelon thrives in warm climates with its season peaking near the end of summer. Despite being 90% water, watermelon flesh is usually very sweet and fragrant. Amazingly, there are more than 1,200 varieties of watermelon that vary in size and shape from very small, round fruits to enormous beasts weighing up to 200 pounds.
Health benefits: Like most fruits, watermelon is a rich in vitamin C. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), as well as a powerful antioxidant called lycopene that is responsible for the red pigment. Foods rich in lycopene have been associated with lower cancer rates, and watermelon in particular has been linked to decreased risk of prostate and breast cancers. Watermelon has also been tied to decreased blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory properties.
How to pick them: Picking a great watermelon remains a bit of an art, but a good rule of thumb is to look for a high weight-to-size ratio. Hearing a hollow sound from knocking on the melon can also be a good indication that the melon is ripe. (This is my favorite way to test for ripeness and a good way to get the kids involved—just don’t let them hit too hard!) Lastly, check for a pale yellow patch indicating that the melon was ripened in the field. If the patch is still pale green it may not have stayed on the vine long enough.
Storage: Watermelon is easy to store and will sit happily on the counter or in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Interestingly, lycopene content of a harvested watermelon will actually continue to increase. Compared to fresh fruit, the lycopene content of a watermelon stored at room temperature for two weeks is 11%-40% higher, with a 50%-139% increase in beta-carotene. Storing watermelon in the refrigerator, however, prevents additional carotenoid biosynthesis.
It’s really hard to mess up a good watermelon. Raw, they are perfect. Once my watermelons are a little too mushy in the refrigerator, I like to make a delicious fruit water. A few pieces of watermelon, some mint, ice and water. Delicious!!! Or, for another unique spin on watermelon, try the recipe below for grilled watermelon, feta, and mint salad.
Grilled Watermelon, Feta & Mint salad
- 1 small watermelon (about 6 pounds), cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
- 1/2 cup small mint leaves, torn
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into large chunks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat BBQ until very hot. Grill watermelon rounds, turning once, until charred (about 2-3 minutes per side). Transfer watermelon to a cutting board and remove rind; cut rounds into wedges.
2. Arrange watermelon on a serving platter. Sprinkle with mint and feta. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Finally, season with salt and pepper.
Enjoy. Be Well, Be NutritionWise.
~ Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, CSP, CLC
This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.