Mark Twain described it best: “When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat!”
There are just a few things that provide as much relief in summer, or any other season, as biting into a large chunk of watermelon. It cools, energises, and refreshes you – pronto!
Watermelon has the maximum water content – 92 per cent – among all fruits and vegetables.
Such is this fruit, now labelled a vegetable.
Goodness of watermelon
A native of Kalahari Desert in Africa, watermelons were first grown in Egypt.
It is, indeed, nature’s balance that the sweetest melons grow best during long, hot summers – which is why Indian summers are good for cultivation of melons. Watermelon is also cultivated in Russia; other leading commercial growers of watermelon include China, Turkey, Iran, and the US.
Watermelon is one of nature’s foremost fruity delights. This fruit is rich in vitamin A, B, and C. Just like many other brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables, this bulky, red treat is rich in the anti-oxidant carotenoid – lycopene – the same cancer preventing anti-oxidant found in cooked tomatoes.
Vitamin B and C are powerful anti-oxidants that neutralise dangerous free radicals. As you’d know, anti-oxidants have a range of benefits: preventing cholesterol sticking to arteries and reducing inflammation in arthritis and asthma. A high intake of beta-carotene-rich food and vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, airway narrowing in asthma, the risk of colon cancer, and symptoms of osteoarthritis [OA] and rheumatoid arthritis [RA].
A cup of watermelon cubes provide one-fourth of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Its beta-carotene content provides 11.1 per cent of your daily needs of vitamin A.
Lycopene is well-known for its anti-oxidant and cancer-preventing properties. A protective against prostate, breast, endometrial, lung and colorectal cancers, lycopene seems to boost sperm concentration and sperm motility, according to a study conducted at All-India Institute of Medical Sciences [AIIMS], New Delhi.
The perfect melon
Your fruit vendor, with some coaxing, may cut in the melon, pry it open, and let you have a peek of its interiors, to confirm if they are as red as you want them to be. However, you won’t have any such luck at the supermarket.
It is good to have a few handy tips to select the best melon. Look for melons that are very heavy for their size and have a hard rind. One of the sure-shot indicators is the white, or yellowish, pale patch at the bottom of the melon. This patch is a result of the melon “sitting down” on the soil after it has become sufficiently heavy, or fully mature.
It is important, say experts, that melons are harvested when they are fully mature; once picked they do not ripen further. However, let it be said that no amount of tapping, or sniffing, can actually give you a clue to its rich, or not ripened, state.
It is extremely important to clean the outer surface of the melon before cutting it. This ensures that the dirt on the outside and also bacteria do not get into the fruit while cutting. Wash the melon with a brush, preferably with filtered water. If you cannot lift the melon to the sink, wipe it with a clean wet cloth.
Depending upon the size that you desire, there are many ways to cut the watermelon. The fruit can be halved lengthwise and quartered; thereafter, it can be sliced, cubed, or scooped into balls. Cleaning, cutting and eating a watermelon can be a fun project to do with your kids too. It is best to take the fruit outdoors, into the garden, or pool-side, where kids can mess up without the trepidation of dirtying the house. You can even introduce a seed-spitting contest to increase your kids’ fun quotient!
- The rind of the watermelon – the white layer just beneath the red flesh – is generally thrown away, but it can be put to good use. Slice and grind the rind, mix it with flour and jaggery – to make a batter. Spread the batter into circles to make watermelon pancakes. The rind can also be chopped into small cubes, cooked with spices and lentils to make a South Indian curry
- Watermelon seeds are a favourite snack among the Chinese, especially women
- Sweet watermelon cubes complement the sour and salty Feta cheese perfectly. Toss the two with some basil, and olive oil, and you have a healthy salad ready
- For a refreshing summer smoothie, blend de-seeded cubes of melon with yogurt, honey and ice-cubes. Serve immediately in a tall glass, garnished with mint leaves
- Combine five cups of watermelon cubes with a cup of sugar syrup and some lemon juice. Freeze in a baking dish for four hours, and scrape with a serving spoon into goblets. This is the Italian version of our Indian gola!
Did You Know?
- Over 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide
- The fruit originated in Kalahari Desert in Africa
- Watermelon is a certified heart healthy food by the American Heart Association. Watermelon and melon seeds are evidenced to dilate blood vessels and lower high blood pressure in hypertensive individuals
- In Southern Russia, a beer is brewed from watermelon juice. The juice is also boiled down to a heavy syrup like molasses for its sugar.
For years, Japanese consumers struggled to fit the large round fruit in their refrigerators. And, there was another problem – trying to cut the fruit when it kept rolling around. It’s 20 years ago, a forward-thinking farmer, on Japan’s south-western island of Shikoku, solved the dilemma. The farmer came up with the idea of making a cube-shaped watermelon that could easily be packed and stored. To make it all the more popular, farmers grew the melons in tempered glass boxes, and the fruit naturally assumed the shape. Today, cuboid watermelons are hand-picked and shipped all over Japan. The irony is – cuboid watermelons are sold in select department stores and supermarkets. They appeal primarily to the wealthy and the fashion-conscious in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan’s two major cities.
— Source: BBC