Slowly, but surely however, watermelons are becoming more attractive for us to buy. New, smaller, rounder melons, some with red, some with yellow flesh, are appearing, and they’re frequently called “icebox melons.”
Watermelons were first grown in Egypt as edible gourds long as 4,000 years ago. Gradually their seeds traveled to the northern Mediterranean and up into Asia. Slaves, around 1650, are credited with introducing watermelon to colonists in the New World. They also introduced okra, black-eyed peas, collard greens, yams and “good luck” sesame seeds.
In Russia, they make a watermelon beer also cook the flesh down to become a molasses-like syrup. In Iraq, Egypt and other parts of Africa it’s used as a staple food, animal feed and a source of water. In Asia they roast the seeds for eating while the Orientals put watermelon halves down into brine barrels.
DeKuyper has distributed watermelon Schnapps for some time, and pubs in Boston serve watermelon ale. Watermelon grappa is popular, too. Many insert a bottle of vodka through a hole in the melon and enjoy the result.
Watermelons are a member of the Cucurbit family. The original watermelons had certain common traits. Each was thin-skinned with a wall of flesh inside the skin. Next to the center was an area of web-held seeds. In squash, for example the skin, flesh and seed areas are eaten. With the pumpkin, the wall of flesh is eaten, the web around the seeds discarded.
All watermelons are rich in vitmins A, C and B6.
Choose firm, symmetrical, bruise-free watermelons, ones heavy for their size. Check for a yellow side where the melon has rested in the sun to ripen. Many have family-held methods of thumping a watermelon for a “perfect sound.”
Make chunks and put them into fruit salads and compotes.
Puree the flesh for drinks, salad dressings and sherbets.
Watermelon wrapped wth prosciutto combines to make a delicious hors d’oeuvre.
A hollowed-out watermelon makes a natural serving dish for fruits, salads and desserts.
Purée watermelon, cantaloupe and kiwi together. Swirl in a little plain yogurt and serve as refreshing cold soup.
In Asian countries, roasted watermelon seeds are either seasoned and eaten as a snack food or ground up into cereal and used to make bread.
A featured item of Southern American cooking, the rind of watermelon can be marinated, pickled, or candied.
Watermelon mixed with thinly sliced red onion, salt and black pepper makes a great summer salad.
Foodsites with watermelon recipes: