There’s almost nothing better on a hot summer day than a tasty ice-cold slice of watermelon. No other food – except maybe barbeque, baked beans, coleslaw and homemade ice cream – can conjure up a Norman Rockwell summer scene like a watermelon. They are synonymous with picnics, fireworks and just plain, good eating. As Central Floridians, we were born knowing about oranges, orange blossoms and orange groves; hurricanes, mosquitoes and love bugs. But, how well versed are we in watermelons? We do know that they have to be cold – the colder the better – and unless a seed-spitting contest is in the very near future, seedless melons are best.
Try this just-for-fun quiz.
True or False: Watermelon is as American as baseball and homemade apple pie.
False: Watermelon was first harvested in Egypt about 5,000 years ago. Even now, as much as the United States loves it, we aren’t the biggest producer. China is first with America coming in fourth. Forty-four states grow watermelons; however, Florida ranks in the top five producing states.
True or False: Watermelons do not stay fresh long and are very fragile.
False: “We like to have them at the distribution center as soon as possible but definitely within three to four days after harvesting,” said Greg Long, watermelon broker, Westlake Produce. “Watermelons are tough but they should be handled carefully.” The watermelons are loaded into bins and put into a refrigerated tractor-trailer with a temperature-controlled environment that hovers around 60 degrees.
True or False: Watermelon is a fruit.
True and False: Some of the distinction between fruits and vegetables comes from the USDA, which decided that since watermelon is planted from seeds, harvested and then cleared from the field like other vegetables, it should be classified as a vegetable. On the other hand – like the pepper, tomato, and pumpkin – watermelon is botanically a fruit. A fruit is the ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents. Watermelon is a member of the cucurbitaceous plant family of gourds, related to the cucumber, squash and pumpkin. This is the bottom line: The difference between fruits and vegetables often overlap but no matter what it’s called – a fruit or a vegetable – watermelons are one of Mother Nature’s tastiest treats.
True or False: Watermelons are the best-loved and most-consumed melons in the United States.
True: By weight, Americans eat more watermelons than any other melon followed by cantaloupes and honeydews. One Florida farm is helping provide thousands of those watermelons to consumers. According to Robbie Burnett of Burnett Farms, he plants his 150 acres around the beginning of February every year just in time to harvest right before Memorial Day. “We’ve really had a great last four or five years,” said the Wauchula farm owner. “My main thing is that I farm the field, not the restaurant. I’m a hands-on farmer.”
True or False: Watermelon may soon be fueling American’s cars.
True: Juice from unwanted watermelons could be a new source for making biofuel ethanol, according to a new U.S. government study. The extracted antioxidant compounds from rejected watermelon juice contains a waste stream of sugary fluids that could possibly be used as a source of ethanol.
So, don’t forget to pick up one on your next trip to the grocery store, farmers’ market, or from the back of a farmer’s truck parked on the side of the road. As a matter of fact, we have the perfect recipe for an easy, yet delicious snack:
This fresh dip with a hint of sweetness makes a treat you and your kids will love!
8 ounces sour cream
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Watermelon stix or small wedges
Blend together the sour cream, sugar and vanilla in a small serving bowl. Use as a dip for the watermelon.
story by ANITA WHITAKER