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How to choose the right watermelon for a healthy, summer salad

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Watermelon is one of those fruits that's synonymous with summertime. From block parties to cocktails, this vine-growing, flowering fruit is featured virtually everywhere. Starring in popular baking blogs to the Food & Arts sections of beauty magazines- watermelon is the deep-red jewel of summer’s crown.

History

Watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, but it’s had a long and popular history around the world. Evidence of watermelon seeds were found in King Tut’s tomb, and watermelon is even mentioned in the Bible as a food eaten by the Israelites while in bondage in Egypt. Watermelons were even cultivated in China around the 10th century, and today, China is the world’s largest watermelon producer.

The word, “watermelon” first made its debut in an English dictionary in 1615, and many travelers to the New World make reference in watermelons being eaten in Massachusetts as early as 1629.

Choosing the right melon

Watermelon selection is an art. Think back to how many times you've been in your local supermarket’s produce aisle, and seeing all forms of folks tapping, thumping and smelling these fruits. While everyone has their own method, here are three tips to help you choose a better watermelon:

Look before you touch- use your powers of visual observation to make sure your fruit is free of big bruises, scratches and gashes. The watermelon’s skin is the protective layer, and the more intact it is, the better your fruit will be. Generally, riper melons are more symmetrical and darker green in color.

Weight- the riper the watermelon, the more water it will hold. Think back to high school science and density; the watermelon you choose should feel relatively heavier for its size.

The ‘G’ Spot- or, the ground spot is where the watermelon sat on the ground. If this spot is white or pale green, it might mean that your watermelon was picked too early, and may not be as ripe as you’d expect.

Recipe: Healthy, Watermelon Salad

“Watermelon in my salad?” Granted, it seems a bit strange, but this delicious and sweet fruit is the perfect complement to savory, salty and bitter flavors like balsamic vinegar, olives and feta. This recipe was inspired by my first introduction to this refreshingly light and satisfying salad at ReSette, an Italian restaurant in New York.

I was in Midtown on a disgustingly hot and humid day, and I was looking for something that wouldn't bog me down; the waiter suggested the watermelon salad, and I did my best not to grimace at the thought. I ordered and contemplating calling him over to change my order, but after I took my first bite, I was immediately a convert, and regularly make my own version of this delightful, summer salad at home.

The great thing about this salad is its flexibility; if you’re not a fan of balsamic vinegar you can opt for lime or grapefruit juice. Here’s a citrusy take on this watermelon salad:

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. watermelon
  • 2-3 small limes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh mint
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup pitted olives
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel the onion, and cut it into very fine, half-crescents and put them in a bowl with the lime juice.
  2. Remove the pits from the watermelon, and cut into 1 ½ inch triangular chunks. Cut the feta into cubes and add the watermelon and cheese to a large, shallow bowl.
  3. Remove the parsley, and give it a rough chop (shouldn't be too fine), and add it to the bowl, add the fresh chopped mint.
  4. Pour in the onions, lime juice, olive oil to the bowl with the watermelon, feta and chopped herbs. Give it a good, light toss. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to seal in the flavors, and enjoy!
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