Watermelons are as All-American as a Norman Rockwell lithograph. The Fourth of July holiday conjures up images of American flags, awful, plaid, shorts, firework extravaganzas and family picnics. Often the star of the show at these sun-drenched family gatherings is the wonderful, juicy watermelon. More watermelons are sold during the Independence Day weekend than the rest of the entire year, yet these big beauties are actually available year-round. Last year, four billion pounds of watermelons were produced in the United States alone, and Americans consumed 13 pounds of watermelon per person. The watermelon is one of the most varied of all melons, with some two hundred varieties grown in forty-four states. Even the seeds can be white, spotted, brown, striped, black, pink, or red, and range in size from 5 to 15 millimeters. Watermelons are a staple of many fruit salads, and of course melon ball salads.

Selection & Storage

While most people rely on the "thump" method when selecting a watermelon, the National Watermelon Promotion Board suggests there is a more reliable way to choose watermelons. Select a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents. Turn the melon over. If the underside is yellow, and the rind has an overall healthy sheen, the watermelon is probably ripe. Select melons that are heavy for their size. Watermelons are 92% water, which obviously accounts for most of their weight. A good rule of thumb is to buy the melon size that will satisfy your needs, so you don't waste any.Melons will ripen after they are picked but their sugar content won't increase. To ripen, store melons at room temperature. It shouldn't take more than a few days, four at the most. Don't refrigerate melons unless they become too ripe or have been cut. Whole watermelons can be stored at room temperature for two weeks, longer if the room temperature is between 50F and 60F, however, after two weeks the quality will begin to deteriorate. Cut watermelons should be loosely covered in plastic wrap before refrigerating. Watermelon is the only melon that tastes better the colder they are.

Throughout the years, watermelon has found itself in many pickles, jams, and other interesting situations. Here is a list of fun facts you many not have known about watermelons:

Watermelon is grown in over 96 countries worldwide.

In China and Japan watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.

In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.

Watermelon is 92% water.

Watermelon's official name is Citrullus lanatus of the botanical family Curcurbitacae and it is a vegetable! It is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.

By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.

Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

The first cookbook published in the United States in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

Food Historian John Martin Taylor says that early Greek settlers brought the method of pickling watermelon with them to Charleston, South Carolina.

A watermelon was once thrown at Roman Governor Demosthenes during a political debate. Placing the watermelon upon his head, he thanked the thrower for providing him with a helmet to wear as he fought Philip of Macedonia.

In 1990, Bill Carson, of Arrington, Tennessee, grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still on the record books according to the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 1999 over 4 billion pounds of watermelon were produced in the United States.

Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn't contain any fat or cholesterol, is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and contains fiber and potassium.

Contrary to popular belief eating watermelon seeds does not cause a watermelon to grow in your stomach. Actually, in some cultures it is popular to bake the seeds and then eat them.

Over 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide.

Every part of a watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds.

The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.

The word "watermelon" first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.

Watermelon Smoothie

2 cups seeded watermelon chunks
1 cup cracked ice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. almond extract

Combine all ingredients in blender container, blend until smooth.
Makes 2 servings.

This is an official 5 A Day recipe.
Recipe provided by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Nutritional Analysis Per Serving: Calories, 115; Fat, 2g; Fiber, 1 g; Cholesterol, 4mg; Sodium, 46mg; percent calories from fat, 13%.


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