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Watermelon The Great Hydrator

Although there is no fool proof clue for choosing the perfect melon without cutting into it, there are things you should look for.

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

When we begin to see the thermometer register in the upper 90’s, we can be sure that locally grown watermelons will begin showing up at farmers market and roadside stands. Watermelons are a sure sign that summer has arrived.

Watermelons could be called the Great Hydrator, because they are made up of 92 percent water. They also contain amazing phytochemicals. In fact, watermelon is the lycopene leader among fresh fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives watermelon its red color, and is only available in a few other foods, including tomatoes. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which may prevent cell damage that leads to heart attacks and cancer.

Watermelon is practically a multivitamin unto itself. One 2-cup serving of watermelon provides fewer than 80 calories and is an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C. Plus, it contains potassium.

What is so special about these vitamins and minerals? Vitamin A is important for optimal eye health; Vitamin B6 is used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which preliminary research shows may help the body cope with anxiety and panic. Vitamin C can help to bolster your immune system’s defenses against infections and viruses and is known to stimulate the immune system and protect against free radical damage. Potassium is necessary for water balance and found inside of every cell. People with low potassium levels can experience muscle cramps.

Now that we know why watermelons are so good for us, how do we pick the perfect one? It depends upon who you ask; there are two types of individuals who choose watermelons. You have the thumpers and the pluggers. I am a thumper who also relies upon the visual characteristics of the melon.

Thumpers are those who prefer to thump the melon to hear a dull sound. Then there are those who are the pluggers, who feel you should taste a piece of the melon and take a look.

Regardless of which method you prefer, the watermelons should reach the market still wearing its stem. Although there is no fool proof clue to choosing the perfect melon without cutting into it, there are things you should look for.

Look for a relatively smooth surface, neither shiny nor dull, but with a waxy, live appearance. The ends of the melon should be well rounded and the underside (where it sits on the ground) should be creamy white. Late in the season, melons with very dull rinds are likely to be overripe.

Size is an important consideration since larger melons have a greater proportion of flesh in relation to the amount of rind than smaller ones.

If you choose cut watermelons, your job just got easier. Whether red or yellow meated, those with firm, juicy flesh with a deep color, free of white streaks, will be juiciest and sweetest. Seeds of ripe melons are dark brown or black. Pass up melons with pale-colored flesh, or whitish seeds. These are all indicators of immaturity. On the other hand, over mature or old melons exhibit dry, mealy or stringy looking flesh. 

If you aren’t planning on using it right away leave it uncut at room temperature.  Watermelons are perishable once cut. For longer storage, put cut sections of watermelon, freed from its rind, in airtight plastic containers. Stored this way in the refrigerator, it will keep its quality for up to a week.

We should keep cut melon slices and pieces in the refrigerator (or on ice in the case of a picnic, etc.) until consumed. Whole melons should be cleaned thoroughly with tap water before cutting and care should be taken to cut melons with clean utensils on clean surfaces.

To ensure safe watermelons, once cut it should be refrigerated within two hours. Leftover cut produce should be discarded if left at room temperature for more than two hours.

There is no doubt that my favorite way to eat watermelon is by the slice, with the juices running down your arm or chin. Others want to get creative and mix them into smoothies, sorbets, fruit drinks or other concoctions.

For more information contact the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in the courthouse, e-mail me at chadley@uaex.edu or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, twitter at @MillerCountyFCS  and Instagram millercountyfcs_carlahadley.

This refreshing drink serves 12 and has only 50 calories per glass and 13 carbohydrates.

Refreshing Watermelon Lemonade

One half cup granulated sugar

One half cup water

4 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed

3 cups cold water

One half cup fresh lemon juice

6 cups ice cubes

Watermelon or lemon slice for garnish, optional

 

Place the watermelon into a blender. Cover, and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove any strings or chunks. In a saucepan, bring sugar and one half cup water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 3 cups of cold water and the lemon juice. Divide into 12 glasses, and scoop 2 to 3 tablespoons of watermelon puree over the ice, then top with the lemonade. Add watermelon or lemon slice for garnish (optional). Gently stir before serving.

 

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
chaley@uaex.edu

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