Experience a quintessential summer pleasure: take a big bite from a slice of watermelon, let the sweet juices drip down your chin and then spit the seeds as far as you can. Redolent with tangy sweetness, watermelon is refreshing without being filling and is surprisingly good for you.
Watermelon-92 percent water, hence the name-is a good source of vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, when it's red (some are orange or yellow). Watermelon averages 40% more of the cancer-fighter lycopene per serving than tomatoes. Lycopene in watermelon is easily absorbed without cooking, unlike that in tomatoes, and is relatively stable when the fruit is stored and refrigerated. A 1-cup serving of watermelon also provides 10% of the daily value for vitamin A, 12% of the daily value for vitamin C, along with vitamin B6, beta carotene, thiamin and potassium-all for just 46 calories.
In season from June through October, this melon's iconic status in American culture often overshadows its culinary potential. Watermelon, usually eaten without fuss in North America, enjoys much more varied culinary treatment in other parts of the world. Sandia, Spanish for watermelon, is a popular flavor of Aguas Frescas in Mexico, a drink made with pureed fruit, water and sugar. (Or, if you're looking for a cocktail, try EatingWell's Watermelon Gin Fizz.) In China, the coating of the seeds are removed and the inner flesh of the seed is eaten. Watermelon seeds, called egusi, are cooked in salt, fermented, roasted or ground in West Africa.
Watermelon's crispness and granular texture can stand up well in many unexpected dishes, like in Watermelon Gazpacho or Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad (below; just add grilled chicken if you want to make it a meal).
Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 cups watercress, tough stems removed, or mixed salad greens (5 ounces)
4 cups diced seedless watermelon (about 3 pounds with the rind)
1/4 cup very thinly sliced red onion (1/4 small)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (2 ounces), toasted (see Tip)
Whisk oil, orange juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Add watercress, watermelon and red onion; toss to coat. Divide among 5 plates. Top with goat cheese and hazelnuts to serve.
Tip: To toast walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, spread nuts onto a baking sheet and bake at 350°F, stirring once, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. To toast sliced almonds, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 224 calories; 18 g fat (3 g sat, 12g mono); 5 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 171 mg sodium; 337 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamins A & C (45% daily value). 1 Carbohydrate Serving.
Watermelon Shopping Tips:
- Watermelon should be firm and symmetrical, without bruises, cuts or dents.
- It should feel heavy for its size and have a creamy yellow spot on the one side of the melon where it sat on the ground to ripen in the sun.
- Precut melon flesh should be dense, firm and appear moist.
Watermelon Storage Tips:
- Wash watermelons in clean, running water and dry before eating to remove surface dirt.
- When purchasing cut watermelon, wash and dry the rind of the watermelon.
- Watermelon temperature should be maintained-if it is purchased at room temperature, it should be stored at room temperature. If the melon was refrigerated at the supermarket, do so at home as well.
- Cut melon should be refrigerated immediately either in a covered container or with cut surfaces covered with plastic wrap to prevent the flesh from becoming mushy.
By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as an associate editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master's degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.
Related Links from EatingWell:
Get more delicious summer recipes.
- Go to EatingWell's Healthy Summer Drink Recipes for more cocktail and mocktail ideas.
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