Cornbread is sweet,
Pork chops are good,
Black-eyed peas are mighty, mighty fine,
But give me, oh, give me,
I really wish you would,
That watermelon hangin’ on the vine.
From “The Watermelon Song” by Tennessee Ernie Ford
I think I remember saying I was going to write about the health benefits of watermelon. Since the Hope Watermelon Festival was this past weekend – and since summer is halfway over – if I’m going to do this, it had better be now!
Sadly, we missed the Hope Watermelon Festival, which I heard was full of seed-spitting, melon-tossing fun! This year, there was even a watermelon idol.
When I think of summer, watermelons, swimming, and homemade ice cream are three things that pop-up in my head. I guess that’s because when I was growing up, every summer, we had watermelons (granny grew them in the garden), and mom and dad took us to the lake every chance they got. Also, we frequently had homemade ice cream.
Back then, once we kids were strong enough, we had the chore of churning the cream, which we didn’t care so much for, but the reward of the creamy and delicious ice cream made all the drudgery disappear.
These days, when I make homemade ice cream, I use my Cuisinart electric mixer. It’s so easy, and in about 20 minutes I have a delicious creamy bowl of soft-serve ice cream. That must be cheating!
Watermelon is a low-calorie treat. One cup provides 50 calories, and is a good source of vitamins A and C. The red flesh of watermelon is high in lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your body from certain types of cancer and heart disease. Watermelon rind prevents the sweeter flesh from spoiling and contains additional vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and a small amount of vitamin B-6.
Watermelon rinds have additional medical benefits. Research by the Agricultural Research Service discovered that watermelon rinds contain citrulline. Citrulline creates arginine, an amino acid that makes proteins for your body and plays a role in the relaxation of your blood vessels. Some people have a natural deficiency of arginine. Watermelon rind extract is currently being studied as a possible treatment for angina and other heart and blood conditions.
Here are some of my favorite recipes using both the flesh and the rind of a watermelon. Pickled Watermelon Rind is a great stand-alone side dish. Also, just some cubed watermelon, baby arugula, and feta cheese makes an awesome salad.
Kay Bona is a staff writer for the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pickled Watermelon Rind
1/2 small watermelon (about five lb.)
3 tablespoons salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
2 star anise
Remove rind from watermelon, leaving a small amount of red flesh attached to rind. Reserve watermelon flesh for another use. Peel rind, and cut into one-inch cubes (about five cups cubed). Place in a large bowl.
Stir together salt and three cups water. Pour over rind. Cover and chill 24 hours. Drain; rinse well.
Combine rind, sugar, next two ingredients, and 3/4 cup water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Cool completely (about one hour), stirring occasionally. Cover and chill 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator up to one week.
Southwest Watermelon Salad
4 cups seeded and cubed red watermelon
4 cups seeded and cubed yellow watermelon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup Pickled Watermelon Rind
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon seeded and thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled Cotija or Feta cheese
Combine first five ingredients in a large glass bowl. Stir in Pickled Watermelon Rind and next six ingredients. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to two hours.
Creamy Watermelon Ice Cream
This ice cream is fluffy and light, and not overly sweet. If you’re wondering why the vodka is necessary, it’s because watermelon has a high water content, which tends to ice up in the freezer. Since the vodka has a high alcohol content, it displaces the ice crystals so that the whole mixture doesn’t turn into a solid block of ice once it’s left in the freezer to ripen. When you pull it out of the freezer (if there’s any left to put into the freezer), be assured you’ll need to let it thaw some before you’ll be able to scoop some out. Again, this is due to the water content.
6 cups watermelon, cubes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vodka
Remove the black seeds from the cubes if needed. Puree the watermelon cubes. Press the watermelon puree through a sieve to remove any chunks or seeds. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until the sugar is fully incorporated. Put into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Melons are at their most flavorful this time of year, so chill out with this summer refresher.
4 cups cubed seedless watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups cold water
Process watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon and sugar in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, discarding solids. Stir in two cups cold water. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Serve over ice.