Nothing is better after a day in the hot summer sun than a nice cold slice of watermelon. People have been enjoying watermelon for at least 5,000 years.
There are ancient hieroglyphs showing watermelon cultivation in Egypt. Watermelons are native to Africa where they became a convenient way to take water across the deserts and saved lives when other water was contaminated. They were so important that King Tut was buried with watermelon seeds.
Watermelon belongs to the curcurbitaceae family – cousin to cucumbers and pumpkins. It is made up of 92 percent water. Not only do they help rehydrate but watermelons also provide electrolytes. They have no fat or cholesterol and contain vitamins A and C and potassium.
Watermelons have an anti-inflammatory property. They have a long tradition of being used to treat sunburns, hangovers and depression. Lycopene found in red or pink watermelon is thought to help prevent cancer and cataract formation.
There are over 500 kinds of watermelon including square, seedless and yellow.
These are divided into two main categories picnic and icebox. The icebox watermelons are usually smaller, and in Japan, are made square to fit the shelf of a refrigerator exactly. The picnic varieties are larger and weigh upwards of 15 pounds.
When picking out a watermelon look for one that is heavy for its size and has a yellow spot on the bottom. A white spot means the melon is not ripe.
Watermelon will keep uncut for about two weeks on the shelf. Cut watermelon needs to be kept in the refrigerator and lasts about a week. Like most food, the sooner it is eaten the more nutrients it will have.
Many people have heard or been told by a prankster not to eat the seeds, usually after it has been accidently swallowed, because it will grow in the stomach.
While this may be funny to tell people, it is not true. In China, they roast watermelon seeds like pumpkin seeds. Down south, they pickle the rind for a treat, and in Russia, they make watermelon beer. There is no need to waste any part of the watermelon; it is completely edible.
For people with a sweet tooth, try drying a watermelon. Cut off the rind, pickle that if you choose, place on a dehydrator tray and dry. When it is soft and dry, it makes a wonderful sweet-treat, and the natural sugars are intensified as the water is drawn out.
This summer try juicing the watermelon – remove the rind and juice the red or yellow part. Strain out any seeds and sit back and refresh yourself with a tall glass of watermelon juice. Yum!