User Post: How to pick the perfect watermelon (and a great recipe for failed attempts)

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One of the best things to enjoy on a warm summer day is a cold watermelon. What could be better? Sweet, crisp, refreshing, red (what a beautiful color!) and nutritious.

My husband sees it as a personal failure when we open a watermelon and find a pinkish disappointment that tastes like a cucumber. He feels there must be a fool-proof way to pick the perfect fruit.

Alas, there's no fail-proof method, but I can offer a few tips for choosing a good watermelon:

Tapping: Tap the watermelon with the pads of your fingers. A winning watermelon will typically have a slightly hollow sound, like the sound you get when tapping your head rather than tapping your chest.

The all important yellow spot: At the bottom of the watermelon -- where it rested on the ground -- you want to find a yellow or cream-colored spot. If the spot is still white, the watermelon isn't ripe. Some say this is the most important clue to watermelon goodness.

Firmness: Press your fingers and thumbs into the watermelon's skin. A good one should be hard all around with no soft spots.

Weight for size: A good watermelon feels heavy for its size.

I've been using these methods for years. Still, I have to admit I'm not convinced that digging through the watermelon bin using these tricks gets you a better success rate than randomly picking the first watermelon your hand touches with your eyes closed. I occasionally end up with disappointing watermelons no matter how hard I try. It just happens!

The good news: a not-so-sweet watermelon makes a wonderful and easy-to-prepare cold soup. (The cucumber in the recipe masks the cucumberness of the not-so-great watermelon.) It looks like a gazpacho, but is even more refreshing.

Watermellon mint soup

Watermelon and mint cold soup

Ingredients

6 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 cup cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 red onion, diced
1/2 cup young celery stalks, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Puree the watermelon in a food processor, using the "pulse" setting; pulse several times until the watermelon is still chunky and not too smooth.

Transfer the puree to large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until cold (at least an hour).

Garnish with a few leaves of fresh mint and serve.

What's so good about watermelons?

First and most important - it's a fruit and it tastes good. And of course its color brightens up the table.

Watermelon is a low calorie nutritious treat: a one-cup serving of watermelon has only about 50 calories.

It's an excellent source of vitamins C and A. It's also a good source of vitamins B6 and B1, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Red watermelon (yes, there's a yellow-orange type too!) is also a good source of lycopene (a carotenoid antioxidant). In fact, watermelons are a richer source of this beneficial antioxidant than tomatoes.

Watermelon is 92 percent water so it's very good for hydration.

While we mostly eat the flesh of the watermelon, all parts are actually edible. The rinds can be stir-fried, stewed or pickled. Watermelon seeds are rich in fat and protein, and can be eaten as a snack (roasted), or made into an oilseed.

Enjoy!

Dr. Ayala

Read more from Dr. Ayala at http://herbalwater.typepad.com



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