Have you had watermelon yet this summer? If not, what are you waiting for? Watermelon is incredibly versatile; it can be made into a cooling and refreshing beverage, frozen into popsicles, mixed with vodka it can form the base of a potent potable, you can make watermelon wine, or make a savory salad with it by mixing it with basil and blue cheese, you can make pickles out of its rind, you can win bragging rights at the county fair by eating more of it than that kid next to you, and you can even make a cake out of it! And if you’re Gallagher you can make a living by bashing it to smithereens with a mallet. Comedy Gold!!
One thing you can’t do is have a picnic without it. That’s just not right.
But watermelon is not just another pretty face, it also contains lycopene, the nutrient that gives watermelon its pink/red colour, a nutrient important for cardiovascular health. Furthermore, watermelon also contains B vitamins, vitamin C, as well as anti-inflamatory and anti-oxidant agents. One interesting note, a watermelon’s nutritional value increases the riper the fruit gets, i.e., a deep red watermelon is richer in all the good stuff than a pale, underripe fruit.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||127 kJ (30 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0.4 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||(4%)
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||(4%)
Watermelon has been thrilling and chilling us for eons, with archeological evidence indicating that it has been cultivated as early as the bronze age; watermelon has been mentioned in the Bible as a food that sustained the Israelites while in bondage, and the seeds have even been found in King Tut’s tomb, an attribution of their importance.
Believed to have originated in Southern Africa, they were introduced to Europe courtesy of the Moors, and were grown in China, now the world’s largest producer of everything watermelons. By the sixteenth Century watermelons had been introduced to America by European traders and settlers and slave traders. Once entrenched in the new world, they really caught on, and are now grown in 44 states and across Canada. The most popular and commercially grown cultivar in North America is a strain called the “Charleston Grey,” developed by Charles Fredric Andrus, a horticulturist at the USDA Vegetable Breeding Laboratory who set out to produce a heartier, disease resistant fruit.
Of significance to us –to everyone- is the fact that in commercial watermelon farms, at least one bee-hive is needed per acre to ensure pollination of the plants. Given the dramatic and well-known plight of the bees (The Plight of the Bumblebee?) these days, it is incumbent on us all to ensure that we protect them. No bees, no food. Catastrophic Stephen King stuff.
Here is a quick, amazingly simple way to enjoy watermelon, our favourite salad of the summer.
You can thank the bees.
Jamie Oliver’s Watermelon and Feta Salad
• 180g feta, crumbled
• A bunch of mint, leaves only, any larger leaves torn
• 500g watermelon flesh, cut into chunks
• 1 small red onion, finely sliced
• Extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle over a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.