Watermelon is the quintessential summertime food. When you think of watermelon, you probably have visions of summer picnics, the beach, or seed-spitting contests. What you may not know is that this sweet treat has some amazing health benefits.
Health benefits of Watermelon
Hydration: There is a reason you might be craving some watermelon at that summertime picnic when the temperatures are climbing and you start sweating. Not only is watermelon composed primarily of water, it’s also full of electrolytes which your body needs to replenish when you’re sweating.
Cancer Preventative: Red watermelon is one of the best whole food sources of lycopene. Unlike tomatoes, watermelon contains large amounts of readily absorbable lycopene in its raw state. Lycopene has been found to reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer including colon, breast, and lung.
Watermelon is also a good source of vitamin A, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals have been linked to preventing heart disease and strokes, lowering blood pressure, kidney cleansing, and decreasing inflammation and asthma. You can check out more health benefits of watermelon here and here.
Choosing a Winner
It’s so disappointing when you bring home a melon only to find it mushy, mealy, or tasteless inside. While there is no perfect way to avoid this (unless you cut it open before buying) you can use these tips to help you pick a winner.
- Buy Local: Local melons are going to be fresher and are less likely to be damaged from shipping. Plus you’ll be supporting your local farmers!
- Color: Look for a deep green color with lighter ridges. Pale melons may not be ripe.
- Shape: No matter what variety of watermelon you are choosing, you want it to be symmetrical. A lumpy melon is indicative of water shortages during growing which can lead to all kinds of issues inside.
- The field spot: This is the spot on the bottom of the watermelon where it rested in the field. Ideally it should be yellow or yellowish-white. A white or light green spot means the melon was picked before it was fully ripe.
- Skin: Check for any weird indentations or markings. These might indicate your melon was dropped or tossed around during shipping. If the melon was dropped, it will likely have bruising inside which means you’ll have a mushy melon.
The Seedless Controversy
Ok, so maybe it’s a little silly to use the word controversy when we’re talking about watermelons. But people seem to have varying opinions on whether seedless watermelons are genetically modified. It turns out that they are not genetically modified but actually a hybrid. Farmers create hybrids from seeds with different chromosomal counts (22 and 44 specifically) to make a sterile plant.
The tricky part here is that one of the parent plant lines has to be treated with a chemical initially to have 44 chromosomes. This plant line will then produce plants with 44 chromosomes and can be bred with the naturally occurring watermelon plants to make seedless watermelon babies. While they may not be genetically modified, they also aren’t naturally occurring either.
Many of the fruits and veggies available today are hybrids. I’ll leave the decision of what kind of watermelon you want to buy up to you. Just remember to buy a seeded one for your next seed-spitting contest! For a more in-depth description of the process to produce seedless watermelon check out this site.
Beyond the Picnic
- Freeze it: Blend watermelon with a little lime juice and honey. Freeze in popsicle molds for a icy cold treat.
- Blend it: Combine watermelon with other fruit and ice for a refreshing smoothie or drink. Check out my watermelon spritzer!
- Juice it: For a super concentrated dose of those antioxidants, juice a large glass and enjoy!
- Salsa: Watermelon makes a refreshing and easy salsa that goes great with fish or shrimp. Check out my recipe here.
- Birthday Cake: yep, you read that right. Watermelon cakes like this one make an excellent birthday cake. This is a great alternative to traditional cake and avoiding sugar for your little ones’ first couple of birthdays.
The Recipe: Watermelon Gazpacho
Today, I’m sharing one of my new favorite cold soups with you: Watermelon Gazpacho. This is a sweet twist on traditional gazpacho. The watermelon gives just the right amount of crunch and fresh sweetness to the gazpacho.
It’s a quick and easy recipe using fresh ingredients.
The best part is you get to throw everything in the blender- it doesn’t get any easier, right?
And you end up with a crisp, refreshing appetizer or main dish.
- 3 cups watermelon, chopped
- 1 cup watermelon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 cup tomato, chopped
- 2/3 cup cucumber, chopped
- 1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
- 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh mint
- 1 tbsp lime zest
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- Juice from ½ lime
- Combine all ingredients except for cubed watermelon, in a blender or food processor.
- Blend on low until combined but still chunky.
- Pour mixture into a large bowl and stir in cubed watermelon.
- Serve chilled.
What’s your favorite way to eat watermelon?