Chow Town

July 29, 2013

It’s watermelon time

Watermelon is not only great on a hot summer day.

Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

Watermelon is not only great on a hot summer day.

This delectable thirst-quencher may also help quench the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis.

It’s being touted as so healthful it should be stored in your medicine chest.

Sweet, juicy watermelon is packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature. It is an excellent source of vitamin C, and is also a very good source of vitamin A, notably through its concentration of beta-carotene.

Watermelon is also a very concentrated source of the carotenoid lycopene. Recent research shows watermelon contains more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, even tomatoes.

Everyone has thumped a watermelon at some time in their life. Old timers will tell you that a ripe one makes a deep thud, while others may tell you to listen for a resonating ping.

My dad always told me to listen for the dull thud; amazing he could pick one each time.

Whether you get a thud or a ping, there are some other indicators to help you pick a good one. The surface color of the fruit turns dull — store bought melons are usually waxed for a shine.

The bottom of the melon — where it lies on the soil — should be yellow or creamy colored. If it is white or pale green the melon is not ready, plus look for very heavy melons that have a hard rind.

How many times do you see people put whole watermelons in their refrigerator just to keep them cold so they will be ready to eat? I know I’ve done that.

Once picked, uncut watermelons should be stored at room temperature. They can be store for about 2 weeks at about 50 degrees.

Uncut watermelons have a shorter refrigerator life, so keeping them on your kitchen counter is fine before you cut it. Once you cut it, it will keep refrigerated up to 3-4 days.

Wash your watermelon in running water, rinse well and pat dry along with the knife that you use. This will keep any germs/bacteria from getting onto the flesh when you cut it.

Some interesting facts about watermelons:

• It is 92% water.

• It is cousins to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash (so whether it is a fruit or vegetable is a big controversy).

• The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

• Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

• The world record for size is 262 pounds in 1990 by a person in Tennessee.

The only down side to watermelon is that a large portion of the calories (48

per cup) in this food comes from sugars.

Here is a quick salad that is great:

Watermelon Salad 2 cups seeded watermelon balls 2 cups fresh mozzarella pieces 1 cup chopped fresh basil 1 bunch chopped scallions or small green onions 1/3 cup olive oil Salt and pepper to taste Balsamic vinegar as desired

Toss together the watermelon, mozzarella, basil, scallions and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over a bed of baby greens with crostini on the sides. Drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar over the top.

So the next time you are wondering what to do with all that watermelon …think pureeing, canning and freezing.

Or like I do, just take a slice cold or hot, bite into it with the juice running down your chin then spit the seeds as far as you can.

It’s pretty much heaven.

Donna Cook is the owner of Rabbit Creek Gourmet Foods in Louisburg, Kan. She is also a Master Gardener, Master Food Volunteer and on the board of directors of the Home Baking Association.

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