Thursday, June 21, 2007
Summer Treat: Watermelon
Though I don't look forward to the steamy hot days of summer, I definitely wait with eager anticipation for Watermelon to be in season. Throughout the off-season, I have seen a few watermelons in various markets, but I avoid them because of price (sometimes $10 or more for a small one), and because (from experience) they just aren't as good as the late-Spring and Summer Watermelon crops.
Recently prices have been falling, and I've been enjoying one of nature's most perfect gluten-free desserts every chance I get. When I was a child, I actually preferred watermelon to desserts like cake, and my mother still tells stories of how I'd ask for a watermelon for my birthday instead of a birthday cake. I'm not quite that fanatical about this fruit now, but I certainly look forward to a perfectly ripe, sweet, and juicy watermelon (preferably served chilled, but fine even at room temperature).
Not only are these fruits wonderful tasting, they are actually quite healthful with their high levels of Vitamin-C and fairly high levels of potassium and fiber and even some B-Vitamins (there's a detailed watermelon-nutritional info chart on this wiki page).
Seedless varieties are certainly handy and make for perhaps a bit more refined eating experience (avoiding the seed-spitting otherwise likely), and have come quite a ways from some early varieties. I used to think the "normal" or traditional seed-filled varieties had superior taste, texture, and juiciness, but any more that is not necessarily the case. We've had a few wonderful seedless ones (like the one pictured above) that were as good as any seeded varieties I have ever encountered.
As for how to best choose the "perfect" melon, well, we have perhaps all heard about knocking on the melon and listening for a deep hollow sound. That seems to be as good as any method perhaps, but my wife and I were recently advised of another way to select the best ripe melon when we had a chance encounter with a Russian fellow that had picked watermelon for years (500 per day he claimed). His advice was simply to choose the largest one, and look for a stem that appeared to be relatively newly picked (i.e., not all dried up and brown, and certainly not rotten). So, we took his advice on the last few melons, and I'll be darned if everyone has not been just perfect! I don't know if this is foolproof, or if all watermelons lately have just been fantastic regardless. But, one way or the other, it has worked and I hope it continues too.
I have another seedless watermelon waiting for me in the kitchen now - certainly bound to become my gluten-free dessert of choice next week when the hot, steamy temperatures are forecast to return. At least I will have a nice sweet thirst-quenching treat to cool down with when that heat hits again.