Summer is in full swing and while we have to put up with the heat, it is also the beginning of watermelon season. Currently you will find an abundance of melons in the store and at road side stands. What better way to cool off during the heat of summer than to eat a slice of watermelon.
Sweet to taste, a watermelon is packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy-enhancing phytochemicals. According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelon contains 15 to 20 mg. of lycopene, the cancer-fighting phytochemical abundant in red fruit and vegetables. You may be surprised to learn this amount of lycopene is higher than any other fresh produce.
Other nutrients include vitamin A, and C, potassium and fiber. Another major health benefit it that watermelons are low in calories, a two cup serving is only 80 calories. Since these melons are 92 percent water, it is also a great snack to help keep your body hydrated during the warm summer weather.
Florida is among the top producing states, in a good year, the sunshine state can grow around 800,000 melons. A watermelon vine can grow to up to six to eight feet within a month, producing a crop within 90 days. Watermelon rinds are hard, but very fragile, requiring melons to be handpicked. But, the melon you get at the road side stand or the grocery store is well worth the effort.
There is a watermelon for any size household, consumers have a wide variety of choice in today’s market. In the U.S. about 50 varieties of watermelon grow; some are large in size, up to 30 pounds, while others can be as small as one pound. Some produce dark seeds and others are seedless.
How do you pick a ripe melon? Choose a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents. A ripe melon should feel heavy for its size; the underbelly should have a creamy spot of yellow. Watermelons will not continue to ripen much after being picked. A food safety concern is to wash the outside of a watermelon with soap and water before cutting it to prevent dirt from getting into the edible fruit.
For more information on food, nutrition and safety contact the Madison County Extension Service.
The University of Florida Extension/IFAS – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.