The watermelon fruit has a smooth, thick green and yellow rind and a sweet, juicy flesh of a deep red-pink colour. Watermelons can be round, oblong or spherical in shape. They can weigh from a few pounds to upto ninety pounds. The flesh consists of highly developed placental tissue.
Although most people associate watermelons with the deep red-pink color, the flesh of watermelons can be orange, yellow, or white as well. The seeds are usually black, brown, white, green or yellow while a few varieties are seedless.
Watermelon has an extremely high water content which is what gives the flesh a crunchy texture. It contains approximately 92% water which makes it a favorite thirst-quenching fruit. All parts of the watermelon can be used.
Watermelons were first cultivated in Egypt. Testaments to their legacy were recorded in hieroglyphics. The fruit was placed in the tombs of many Egyptian kings. In the Kalahari desert the ancestral watermelon grows wild and can be found in abundance.
Watermelon is an excellent fruit to quech your thirst on a warm summer day. In addition it contains nutrients that quench the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis.
Watermelon is actually packed with some important antioxidants. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A because of its high concentration of beta-carotene. Pink watermelon is also a source of the carotenoid antioxidant, lycopene which travels through the body neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are substances cause a great deal of damage to the body. They oxidize cholesterol, making it stick to blood vessel walls, where it can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. They also aggravate asthma attacks by causing airways to clamp down and close. They increase the inflammation that occurs in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and they also damage cells lining the colon, turning them into cancer cells. One cup of watermelon provides 24.3% of the daily value for vitamin C.
Lycopene is present in high amounts in watermelons. Lycopene has antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. Lycopene has been found to be protective against a growing list of cancers which include prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancers. Lycopene helps to protect cells in the body from oxygen damage-has been linked in human research to prevention of heart disease. Protection of DNA (our genetic material) inside of white blood cells has also been shown to be an antioxidant role of lycopene.
Watermelon is a very good source of vitamin B6, vitamin B1, magnesium, and potassium. The high water content of this fruit makes it low in calories and yet rich in nutrients. One whole cup of watermelon contains only 48 calories.
How to buy and store
Watermelons can be round or an oblong oval. To select a good watermelon, slap the side and see if it resounds with a hollow thump. THis is a good indicator that the melon is ripe. The rind should be dull and not shiny. It should just barely yield to pressure. Avoid melons with soft spots, gashes or other blemishes on the rind. The watermelon should have brightly colored flesh. Small, white seeds mean the melon is immature. Store the watermelon in the refrigerator and consume in a week. Always wrap and then refrigerate a cut watermelon. Use within a day or so.
- Fresh watermelon may be eaten by itself.
- Use to flavor summer drinks and smoothies.
- Watermelon steak has started to become a popular item in restaurants.
- In China watermelon rinds are stir-fried, stewed, or pickled.
- Watermelon seeds are rich in fat and protein and are widely eaten as a snack.
- Purée watermelon, cantaloupe and kiwi together and then swirl in a little plain yogurt to make a refreshing cold soup.
- The rind of watermelon can be marinated, pickled or candied.
- Watermelon makes a great addition to fruit salad.
Watermelon as a symbol
Watermelons are used in many parts of the world as symbols and during various celebrations.
- Art related to the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos commonly depicts watermelons being eaten by the dead or shown in close conjunction with the dead.
- In Vietnam watermelon is used as part of the Vietnamese New Year's holiday, Tết, because it is considered a lucky colour. The seeds are also consumed during the holiday as a snack.
- In the 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans often were depicted in racist caricatures as being inordinately fond of watermelon.
- The fruit is extremely popular in the southern United States and has also led to self-parody in the annual watermelon seed-spitting contests Georgia's Redneck Games.
- The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill on 17 April 2007 declaring watermelon as the official state vegetable, with some controversy as the watermelon is considered by many to be a fruit.
- A carved watermelon is worn as a hat by fans of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders in imitation of the players' helmets as a symbol of their 'Rider Pride' due the team's official colors of green, white, black, and silver.