The wonders of watermelon

Do you remember sitting outdoors on a hot August day with a big chunk of watermelon, the juices dripping down your forearms, spitting out the little black seeds and eating the flesh until you hit the white rind? The cooling effects of watermelon are nothing less than refreshing on a hot day.

A watermelon salad with mint, feta, olive oil, salt and pepper is simple and easy to make and perfect for lunch or as a side dish at a summer potluck.

Nowadays watermelon comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some melons are small and round, while others are large and oval. Some are seedless and others are filled with thousands of seeds. Some are striped. The flesh can be red, yellow, orange and pink. There are more than 1,200 varieties of watermelon grown in the world.

Picking a watermelon

There is nothing more disappointing then biting into a mealy melon. So how do you pick a good watermelon? Check to make sure the melon is relatively smooth and unmarred. Choose a symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. To test for a ripe melon, pick it up and feel it. No matter how big or small the watermelon is, it should feel heavy for its size.

Examine the melon for the field spot; the underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot where the melon rested on the ground and ripened in the sun. Some aficionados say, the darker the skin of the melon, the better the flavor will be.

Test your skill in choosing a ripe watermelon by using the knocking technique: tap on the melon and listen to the sound. If it makes a deep hollow sound, it’s a sign of ripeness. If it has a dull sound, like it’s full, it’s not ready yet. A ripe watermelon tends to feel firm and springy when you poke it.

Watch Priya prepare a watermelon basket

 Watermelon fruit basket

There are many ways to enjoy a watermelon. Some slice it up with the rind on. Others cut it into bite-sized squares and some are a fan of the melon baller, which make nice round watermelon balls.

A watermelon basket filled with fresh summer berries is always a hit at a barbecue. You can simply slice it in half and scoop out the insides, making both halves into bowls. I like to make a watermelon basket with a handle. There is a trick to making such a basket.

I draw a line with a nontoxic marker horizontally midway around the melon. Then I draw two vertical lines in the center about an inch apart to denote the handle. I slice into the horizontal line at each end up to the handle line. Then I cut down the vertical handle lines to the horizontal slice and lift these ends off.

Scoop out the basket with a melon baller or cut it out with a thin knife and big spoon. If you want to make the handle fancy, you can cut V-wedges in each side with a sharp knife and around the edge of the entire basket.

Reserve the juice in a pitcher. Add your favorite fruit — I add blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and cubed mango. Honeydew is also a great addition to the basket.

Watermelon cocktails

What can you do with the reserved watermelon juice beside drink it? Try a champagne watermelon punch. In a punchbowl, add the reserved watermelon juice, a bottle of cold champagne and soda water. I add blueberries, a few mint leaves and ice. This beverage is delicious and delightful. Vodka infused with watermelon and served with club soda and lime is also another delicious drink.

Add watermelon to salads

Summer is salad season; add watermelon to your greens for a sweet and cooling twist to salads. A watermelon salad with mint, feta, olive oil, salt and pepper is simple and easy to make and perfect for lunch or as a side dish at a summer potluck. Avocado, cucumber and watermelon salad is also a great dish to serve during the summer months. Grilled watermelon, watermelon salsa and watermelon gazpacho are all seasonal favorites.

Try blending watermelon with a touch of lime or lemon juice and popping it into ice-cube trays. This makes a great treat for kids or a tasty addition to beverages.

The rind is also edible. Some pickle the rind, make jam and chutney with the rind and use it in a unique version of coleslaw.

Watermelon is 98 percent water and contains vitamin A and C, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Rehydrate this summer with the wonderful watermelon.

Serve a Watermelon & Feta Salad inside the hollowed watermelon. | Priya Hutner

Watermelon & Feta Salad
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

2 C cubed watermelon
½ C crumbled feta cheese
¼ C fresh mint leaves
8-10 pitted Kalamata olives
1½ C arugula
3 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 t pink Himalayan salt
½ t fresh ground pepper

In a large bowl mix the cubed watermelon, olive oil, vinegars, olives, feta, salt and pepper and half of the mint. Chill for an hour. Place on bed of arugula and top with the reserved mint and serve.


 

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Priya Hutner
Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks. | priya@tahoethisweek.com