Watermelon is a member of Cucurbitaceae family and it’s a type of melon. Watermelon is both the fruit and the plant that grows on vine. The exterior rind of fruit is very smooth usually green in color. Watermelon also has a pink fleshy interior with lots of juices. Sometimes, the color of flesh is deep red or orange depending upon the variety of fruit. Watermelon is eaten as a refreshing fruit and also used to make various dishes called watermelon dishes. These dishes include watermelon shake, watermelon relish and watermelon pudding.
History of Watermelon
Watermelon is a native to South Africa, where it is grown as a wild species. Some of the evidence also shows the cultivation of watermelon was done near river Nile or in Nile valley, Egypt. Today China is the largest producer of watermelon but the first cultivation of watermelon was started there in 10th century AD. By 13th century AD, the fruit was introduced to Europeans and in 1500s Americans get to known about the watermelons by African slaves. Since then it has been considered as a refreshing fruit in human diet.
Culinary Use of Watermelon
Like other fruits, watermelon also has varied uses in culinary world. Watermelon as a juicy fruit is widely used to make various drinks. Fresh watermelon juice is used to make milk shakes and sherbets. Jam, jellies and marmalades are also some of the popular watermelon recipes. Mostly, watermelon is used to make desserts and puddings. Watermelon flavored ice creams and mousse are quiet popular in world cuisine. Fruit salads and other salads also include watermelon chunks. Not only the flesh but its rind can also be used for pickling. Watermelon dishes can also be made by using watermelon seeds. Watermelon seeds have excellent culinary uses. They can make a light snack by simply salting and baking the seeds. Seeds can also be grounded to make a flour-like material that can provide a unique texture to gravies, soups and stir-fried dishes. Yogurts and puddings include watermelon seed because of its extraordinary stabilizing properties. It also acts as a thickener in various baked watermelon dishes.
Popular Watermelon Recipes
• Watermelon soup – Watermelon soup is served cold either as an appetizer or as a dessert.
• Watermelon granita – It’s a kind of grainy sorbet made with watermelon.
• Watermelon pickle – This watermelon dish is made up of watermelon rind rather than with flesh.
• Watermelon vinaigrette – The watermelon juice is added to this vinegar mixture to add little sweetness.
Cuisines Commonly Making Watermelon Dishes
The native cuisine of watermelon is South African cuisine and several watermelon recipes are popular there. Watermelon smoothies and fruit salads are quiet popular in South African cuisine. European as well as American cuisines are fondly making watermelon dishes. In Chinese cuisine, deep-fried watermelon dish is a very popular snack as well as dessert. Watermelon shakes, and ice creams are well liked in almost all cuisines.
Preferred Method of Cooking Watermelon Dishes
• Baked – Watermelon cakes, pies and muffins are usually baked dishes.
• Deep-fried – Watermelon pieces are coated in egg and flour batter to make a delectable snack or dessert.
• Pureed – The flesh of watermelon is pureed in blender to make sauces, jams and jellies. It can also be used to make ice creams.
• Freeze/chilled – Watermelon sherbets and ice creams are made by freeze/chilled method.
• Dressed – Watermelon vinaigrette is mainly used as a salad and meat dressing.
• Chopped – Chopped pieces of watermelon are added in fruit salads and as topping for puddings.
Nutritive Value of Watermelon
Water content is very high in watermelon and 92% of its weight is constituted of water only. Very less sugar is present in watermelon hence it is a very healthy fruit for diabetics and obese people. Watermelon is an excellent source of beta carotene and lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant and has anti-cancer properties. Vitamin A and C are also present in abundance in watermelon dishes. The rind of watermelon also contains some hidden nutrients that are avoided by most of the people by discarding the rind. Watermelon dishes cooked with the rind are more nutritious than the other watermelon dishes.
Buying and Storing of Watermelon
Buying a good and fully ripe watermelon is not a difficult task. If the watermelon sounds hollow after slapping on its side then this is the sign of fresh and ripe watermelon. Always buy blemish and soft-spots free watermelon. Cut watermelon should be wrapped and then stored in refrigerator. Watermelon dishes or cut watermelon should be consumed with in a day or two.
Types of Watermelons
There are several varieties of watermelons being cultivated in different parts of world. Some notable varieties are mentioned below:
• Carolina Cross – This is the most common and popular variety of watermelon produced in today’s world. Red flesh and green outer rind.
• Yellow watermelon or crimson – This variety of fruit has yellow flesh and has sweeter taste than the common red variety of watermelon.
• Orangeglo – This watermelon has orange flesh with green stripped rind.
• Moon and star watermelon – This type of watermelon is given this name because yellow moon and star shapes can be seen on its rind. It is introduced in 1926
• Melitopolski – This is the smallest variety of watermelon.
• Densuke Watermelon – This variety has black rind with no spots. A Japanese Island called Hokkaido is the only place where this variety is grown.
• Seedless watermelon was introduced in 1939 by pollinating the watermelon flowers with an acid.
• The weight of largest watermelon grown was 262 pounds.