Today sees National Watermelon Day in the US so I thought I would use it as inspiration for this month’s ‘Top Things to Do with’ article and celebrate the pink and green pleasure that is the watermelons.
Meet the watermelon
The watermelon comes from the same family as cucumbers, squash and pumpkins and is believed to have originally come from the Kalahari Desert area of Africa. The fruit were placed in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs as a tasty snack for the afterlife and they feature in artwork going back 5,000 years.
The world’s top producer is now China and merchants spread the fruit there back in the 10th century. It travelled to the US with slaves from Africa and early explorers used the fruit as canteens for their water. The first cookbook published in the US in 1776 contained a recipe for pickling the rind of watermelons.
Watermelon health benefits
Few of us haven’t encountered the watermelon and it is one of those fruits that seems to be best served in the summer, when it is warm and sunny. Perhaps that is because it is 92% water and therefore a great source of hydration during the warmer times. But that isn’t to say that the watermelon is without any other benefits to our health.
For starters, there is no fat in watermelon, no cholesterol or sodium. It does have potassium, vitamins and other minerals. In fact, a 2 cup serving provides the following amounts of the recommended daily amount (RDA):
- Vitamin A – 30%
- Vitamin C – 25%
- Potassium – 8%
- Dietary fibre – 4%
- Iron – 4%
- Calcium – 2%
All of these come from 8% of the fruit that isn’t water so there’s a lot going on there! The same portion does include around 20grams sugar and a gram of protein.
Then there are the subtler benefits from the watermelon. High levels of something called lycopene are great for protecting cells against damage and can even play a part in reducing the risk of heart disease. It is also an anti-inflammatory agent as it is an anti-oxidant as is choline, also found in the fruit.
Another element is arginine that helps the blood to flow and can assist the body in getting rid of excess fat. Studies have shown that watermelon can help lower blood pressure and reduce hypertension.
Watermelon is a classic for making drinks with its high water content and fresh taste. A simple idea is to make Watermelon Slushies by taking 300 grams seeded watermelons, eight ice cubes and a teaspoon of honey. Pop them all into the blender and mix together then serve in a tall glass.
Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade
This is a definite summer classic for those warm nights that we hope to see at some stage this month! To serve eight, take 1.2kg watermelon, cubed and seeded and 150g hulled and halves strawberries. You add them to the blender with 120ml fresh lemon juice, 200grams caster sugar and 475ml water. Blend until smooth and serve.
- 900g watermelon
- 250ml prosecco, cava or other white sparkling wine
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 tsp lime zest
- Sugar syrup
- Mint to garnish
Leave the watermelon to chill in the fridge overnight then put it in the blender with the wine, lime juice and zest then blend until smooth. Add sugar syrup to taste and then serve into a Collins glass with a garnish of mint.
Watermelon Smoothie with Blueberries
Making smoothies with watermelon does result is a more watery drink than with other types of fruit but is perfect for warm days when you want to get plenty of water in. Take half a seeded watermelon with a cupful of ice and pop it in the blender until slush. You can then either add the blueberries whole once the mixture is in the glass or if you are like me, pop them in and give them a whizz too.
The inspiration for this one comes recommended from Zoe at www.eatsleeds.co.uk who is doing a guest blog spot this weekend for the new Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten Free section of the website.
Watermelon and feta salad
- ½ watermelon, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 200g feta cheese
- Handful black olives
- Handful flat leaf parsley
- Handful mint leaves
- 1 red onion
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar to serve
In a large bowl, toss the prepared watermelon with the olives and feta. Roughly chop the herbs and add to the bowl along with the red onion, cut into rings. Toss with olive oil and balsamic and serve with crispbread if required.
Duck and watermelon salad
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 2 duck breasts
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 30g coriander leaves, chopped
- 15g mint leaves, chopped
- 250g watermelon in chunks
- 100g cashew nuts
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 2 tbsp. pomegranate or cranberry juice
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 ½ tbsp. brown sugar
Start by preparing the duck – score the skin of the breasts in a cross pattern without scoring the meat underneath. Rub in salt and pepper into the skin and pop it in a non-stick pan. After 5 minutes, juice will begin to drain out so increase the heat slightly. Once the skin is crispy, flip the duck and cook the other side for 5 minutes or to preference.
Remove the duck from the pan and leave it to cool. In a bowl mix the chopped coriander, mint, watermelon and the nuts. Add the oil and juice, soy sauce and sugar then mix. Serve onto plates. Cut the duck into pieces or slices and lay this on top of the salad.
Shrimp Pico de Gallo
This one comes from the Watermelon Board’s website, the people who represent the people who produce these tasty fruits for us.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. minced jalapeno
- 3 tbsp. minced shallots
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Juice from 3 limes
- 2 cups watermelon mined
- 2 cups cooked, cooled, peeled and deveined shrimp (prawns)
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 cup roasted red peppers diced
Heat oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat then sauté the jalapenos, shallots and garlic. Take from the heat and add the soy sauce and cumin then leave to cool. Add ingredients to a bowl and toss with lime juice, watermelon, shrimp, peppers and parsley. Season with black pepper if required and serve.
Cold soups are brilliant in the warmer months and this is a watermelon version of the classic gazpacho dish.
- 1kg watermelon, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped and deseeded
- 1 red pepper, chopped and deseeded
- 3 cloves garlic
- 200g bread
- 1 cucumber
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
Take most of the watermelon and all the other ingredients apart from oil and vinegar and pop them in the blender. Blender until smooth then stir in the olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper as required. Chill until cold and served with the remaining watermelon finely chopped on top.
Grab your 3 ingredient smoothie cheat sheet
Never struggle to think what to put in a smoothie again!