Wild for Watermelon
The quintessential fruit of summer, watermelon, is one of nature’s most refreshing treats. From the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes cantaloupe, cucumber, squash and other gourd-bearing vines, watermelon refers to both the plant and the fruit itself. Indigenous to Africa, Egyptians cultivated watermelon as far back as 4,000 years ago. There are now over 1,200 varieties of watermelon, ranging from one-pound mini melons to massive fruits that reach over 200 pounds.
Watermelon flesh is 92% water, giving it a refreshing, thirst-quenching taste while still delivering satisfying crispness. Though utterly delicious on its own, watermelon has found its way into just about every meal category, from savory watermelon salads to sweet sorbets for dessert. Ever versatile, even the sturdy shell can be carved into a basket and used as a unique container.
Watermelon’s red, ripe flesh also offers a host of health benefits. It contains lycopene, a phytonutrient that’s essential in heart and bone health, as well as other antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients, including vitamins A and C. The lesser-known white-and yellow-fleshed varieties do not contain the same levels of lycopene but still boast impressive nutritional profiles.
Watermelon season ranges from spring to early fall, with peak harvest falling during the summer months of June through August. When choosing your fruit, look for a firm watermelon that’s free of noticeable dents, cuts or bruises. It should feel heavy when lifted, as the ripest watermelons contain the highest amount of water. The rind should be bright green, with a whitish-yellow spot on the underside where the watermelon rested on the ground.