What is delicious and super juicy, can be red, pink, or dark pink on the inside, and seeded or seedless? Here are some more hints: although it is available year-round, its peak production season in the Untied States is summer, and it is fun to eat in slices or wedges. Answer – it’s the popular summertime fruit, the watermelon!
The watermelon is a ground-vine flowering plant from the gourd family that produces a fleshy fruit inside and has a thick outer rind. It is believed that watermelons first originated several thousand years ago in Africa in the Kalahari Desert, and over time made its way all over the world from Africa to places like Europe, Asia, and North America to be cultivated. However, it was not until the Europeans began to colonize North America that the watermelon was introduced to the United States. It was also a source of water for thirsty traders, then became a source of funds when these traders began to sell watermelon seeds in many cities along the ancient Mediterranean trade routes. Watermelons were used in a different way during the Civil War when the Confederate Army boiled them down to create a source of sugar and molasses.
There are over 1,000 varieties of watermelon grown worldwide, but only 200-300 varieties are grown in the United States and Mexico and about 50 varieties of that number are most popular. The Seedless, Seeded, and Mini (or Personal) watermelon are the most popular in the U.S.
A single watermelon is made up of 92% water and the rest of the fruit is packed with healthful nutrients – vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber. Did you know that consuming plain roasted watermelon seeds adds more essential minerals to help maintain a healthy body and prevent disease? Eating watermelon seeds provides you with magnesium for an even greater energy boost, comes packed with iron to promote a healthy immune system, and copper for skin and hair protection. To get the most nutritional value from fruits and vegetables, and to keep your body healthy and strong, it is very important that you eat a variety of colorful foods. For a healthy immune system, be sure to include deep red or bright pink color fruits and vegetables in your meals and snacks every day.
When it comes to the red color in plant foods, they contain disease fighting and health promoting substances called phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins and lycopene. Among fresh fruits and vegetables, watermelon varieties that are a deep red in color are lycopene leaders, and the red pigment is an important antioxidant that has been discovered to be helpful in reducing the risk of cancers such as prostate, breast, colon, and lung. Other health benefits include an immune system boost to protect against infections and viruses, good for eye health, and has been certified by the American Heart Association as a heart healthy food. Watermelon is a very good source of potassium that helps with muscle cramps, and muscle and nerve function. It can act as an anti-inflammatory agent to ease the symptoms of health ailments like asthma, arthritis, atherosclerosis, and diabetes.
How to pick out the prefect watermelon.
- Pick up and feel the whole watermelon. You want to choose a firm watermelon that is symmetrical in shape that does not have soft spots, deep dents, or cuts.
- Don’t judge a watermelon by its size! Since a watermelon is 92% water, you want one that is heavy for its size.
- The only “spot” that should be on the watermelon is a yellow-white area on the bottom of the fruit where it sat on the ground as it grew.
…and it is important to remember to wash your watermelon before cutting it. You don’t want yucky germs pressed into the fruit part that you are going to eat!
Try having some fun with how you eat watermelon. While it is quick and easy to cut up and dive right on in to a juicy slice, blending or cooking it into a healthy dish or baked good can give this summertime favorite a new twist.
Check out these unique watermelon recipes, see if they look delicious, and create away: