Few fruits are as well-known and loved as the watermelon. The watermelon belongs to the same family as cucumbers and gourds. Most watermelons have green rinds and deep red flesh, but some cultivars of watermelon have yellow, orange or white flesh. While the typical watermelon rind is green with green stripes, some varieties of watermelon have yellow spots, dark yellow lines or green dots. Watermelons were likely first cultivated in parts of southern Africa where many varieties of watermelon grow in the wild. There’s evidence that watermelons were grown by the ancient Egyptians in the second century BCE. Watermelon cultivation spread to China, India, Persia and the eastern Mediterranean by the 800s. In the tenth century, Moorish invaders introduced watermelons to Europe.  The flavor of watermelons can vary from sweet to bland to bitter depending on the variety of watermelon. The flesh of watermelons is usually exceptionally juicy, but some dry, bitter varieties exist.

Watermelons can be eaten raw, or prepared in several different ways. Fruit salads are common at backyard barbeques, and they often feature watermelon.  For quick and easy fruit salad, simply ball watermelons with a melon baller or cube them and combine with other fruits, berries or melons. To make fruit salad even more impressive add some herbs or spices with cool flavors, such as mint or ginger. Add cream and berries to some chunks of watermelon  for a tasty, light desert.  Serve shrimp over slices of grilled watermelon and pineapple for a light, flavorful meal. Put thick slices of watermelon on the grill to help draw out the juices from the fruit and make it sweeter. For an adventurous sandwich, start with wheat bread, spread some mustard on each slice and layer pieces of cheddar cheese. Cut watermelon into pieces about the same size as the bread and place them on the sandwich. Top with a hearty helping of arugula and assemble the sandwich. Drizzle some olive or vegetable oil on the , sauté pan or on the grill. This is a tasty, unorthodox sandwich that is sure to surprise. Pureed watermelon is great in mixed drinks and cocktails like watermelon margaritas or daiquiris. Try watermelon with fresh grilled fish, especially salmon. Add a little bit of spice to watermelon for a different spin on the classic summer fruit.  In a sauce pan, combine lime juice, honey, and ground ginger. Once it’s well combined and hot let it cool to room temperature and then drizzle over watermelon, pineapple and diced serrano peppers for a delicious salad with a bite.

Keep a few things in mind when picking watermelons. The color of a ripe watermelon is dull. A shiny watermelon is unripe. Knock on the watermelon and listen to the sound it makes. If the sound is a dull thud, then the watermelon is under ripe. A ripe watermelon makes a hollow sound when knocked. Fresh watermelons are heavy for their size. If a watermelon feels light, it is likely dried out. Cutting the rind of watermelons is often difficult, so make sure to use a sharp knife and don’t use excessive force. Always wash fresh watermelons before cutting them.

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