The Wondermelon

The sweet juiciness of the watermelon is just one of the reasons we love this refreshing summer fruit.


Published:

Photographed by Carla Witt Ford

Watermelon is an icon of summer. From eating contests at fairs and festivals to carved melon art and farmers market stands laden with the fruit, what’s not to love about something so deliciously refreshing and wonderfully messy? But, there’s more than meets the eye. Organizations such as the National Watermelon Association, established in 1914, and the National Watermelon Promotion Board will tell you everything fun and factual about watermelons, like the fact that a watermelon plant takes 85 to 90 days to become mature enough to harvest, or that these melons are actually quite healthy. The fruit offers excellent levels of vitamins A and C, a good level of vitamin B6, and can serve as a source of potassium, too.

Consisting of six percent sugar and 92 percent water, watermelons have a smooth exterior rind that’s usually green, yellow, or white, and a sweet inside of deep red or pink. The melons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and while more than 1,200 kinds of watermelon exist and almost 300 varieties are grown in the United States, most people are familiar with about 50 types.

Peak season is May through August, but this favorite fruit can be found year-round in the U.S., meaning you have plenty of time to explore the joy of cooking with it. Salsas, gazpacho, sorbet, and salads are just a few of the ways this versatile fruit can be used.

 

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Bites

1 seedless watermelon
1 log goat cheese
Bacon, cooked and each slice cut into 4 pieces
Fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Cut watermelon into round disks, about 1 inch thick. Using a small round cookie cutter (bearing in mind that this makes a mouthful even with small diameter circles), cut out little cylinders of watermelon, avoiding the seedy spots. Cut each cylinder into 3 or 4 thinner disks. Set the watermelon disks on paper towels briefly to drain excess juice.

Cut the log of goat cheese into disks of approximately the same thickness as the watermelon disks. Use the cookie cutter to trim the cheese to the same size as the watermelon, taking care not to let the goat cheese crumble too much. Place a disk of goat cheese on each disk of watermelon. Top each with a piece of bacon and a basil leaf. Just before serving, drizzle each bite with a drop of balsamic vinegar.

Recipe adapted from The Meaning of Pie by Kelly Dean Yandell.

 

Watermelon Pizza

1 seedless watermelon
Kalamata olives, chopped
Red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed
Ricotta salata or feta cheese
Fresh basil or mint, torn
Arugula, optional
Vinaigrette (see below)

Cut watermelon into 1-inch thick, round disks. Top slices with olives, onion, ricotta, basil, and other toppings of your choice, and drizzle with vinaigrette.

For vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 teaspoons honey, 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar, 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Recipe adapted from Tim Mazurek’s blog, Lottie + Doof.

 

Refreshing Watermelon Tomato Salad

5 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1½ pounds ripe tomatoes, cut into ¾-inch cubes
3 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Romaine lettuce leaves, optional

 

Combine watermelon and tomatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. Stir in onion, vinegar, and oil. Cover and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled with lettuce.

Recipe adapted from Southern Living magazine.

 

Watermelon Salsa

2 cups watermelon, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ to 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons lime juice
Tortilla chips, for dipping

Combine watermelon, cucumber, onion, peppers, cilantro, and basil in a large bowl. Add honey and lime juice and stir to coat.

Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: Watermelon naturally has a lot of liquid in it. Before serving, pour out the excess liquid so the salsa is not too runny.

Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

 

Watermelon Lime Sorbet

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
8 cups fresh watermelon, cubed (save and freeze the rind)
⅓ cup lime juice

Place water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar is completely dissolved to create a syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a food processor or blender, mix together watermelon, syrup, and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Add to an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve immediately as soft serve sorbet or freeze in an airtight container and remove a few minutes prior to serving to let soften for scooping.

For a fun twist: Take the watermelon rind out of the freezer and fill it with sorbet. To add “seeds,” sprinkle in a few mini chocolate chips as you fill the rind. Put the filled rinds in the freezer, about 4 to 5 hours.

Tips:

  • Use a small watermelon.
  • Freeze only long enough for the sorbet to set. If you freeze it longer, set it out to soften before serving.
  • Dip a large chef’s knife in warm water between each cut, and try to cut 2- to 3-inch thick slices. If cut too thin, the sorbet slices won’t hold together as well.

Yield: 8–10 servings

Recipe adapted from Food for My Family.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

5 cups watermelon, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped, plus 1 cup, finely chopped
½ cup cranberry juice
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup celery (about 2 stalks), diced
¾ cup red bell pepper (about 1 pepper), diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, minced
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
1½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, minced

Combine 5 cups watermelon and the cranberry juice in a blender, and puree until mixture is smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a large bowl or plastic storage container, discarding pulp. You should have 3 cups of strained liquid.

Add cucumber, celery, bell pepper, onion, herbs, lime juice, vinegar, jalapeno, and remaining 1 cup chopped melon to watermelon liquid, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator until soup is well chilled, at least 1 hour. Serve, or store in refrigerator up to 1 day.

Yield: 1½ quarts

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

 

Watermelon Almond Tart

1 cup sliced almonds
1 seedless watermelon slice, 3- to 5-inches thick, rind removed
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup, optional

In a skillet set over medium heat, toast the almonds while constantly stirring to prevent burning. When they are golden, remove them to a heatproof tray or foil to cool. Cut the watermelon slice into 6 to 8 pie-shaped wedges. Dip the back (curved) side of each slice in the yogurt and then the almonds, reassembling the pieces on a serving platter as you complete each piece. When finished, it will look like a piecrust of almonds around the watermelon slices. Frost the top of the reassembled watermelon with the remaining yogurt and decorate the top with the berries. Drizzle the top with chocolate syrup. Serve cold.

Recipe adapted from watermelon.org.

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