Don’t think watermelon season is over after that July 4th picnic. Here in the South, watermelon is at its peak from June all the way through September. As matter of fact, in the United States, the growing season for watermelon is from April through November.
The watermelon was first cultivated in ancient Egypt and recorded in hieroglyphics as early as 2500 B.C. With water being in short supply in Africa, the thirst-quenching watermelon was held in high regard, often placed in the tombs of Egyptian kings. It’s believed that watermelons were brought to China in the 10th century and to the New World shortly after its discovery. China is the top producer of watermelons followed by Brazil, Turkey, Iran, and the United States. It’s no wonder there are so many watermelon recipes from around the world.
Watermelon Caipirinha (The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national drink.)
2 tsp. sugar
5 slices quarter-sized ginger
6 large tarragon leaves
2 oz. watermelon puree
2 oz. cachaca
1 oz. grenadine
Muddle lime, ginger, sugar, and tarragon. Add watermelon puree and cachaca. Shake with ice and pour into a glass.
Agua frescas (Spanish: water refreshments) are popular in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean and are made from fruits blended with sugar and water to make a non-alcoholic beverage. Due to the natural sweetness of watermelon, a minimal amount of additional sugar is required. Try substituting with Splenda or the like for a calorie cut!
1 cup finely cut watermelon
7 cups coarsely chopped watermelon
6 cups watermelon juice
½ cup sugar
1 large lime, juiced
Combine all ingredients in a large serving pitcher. Garnish with watermelon wedges and mint.
Minced Pork and Watermelon Lettuce Wraps
1 pound lean ground pork
1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh minced ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 cup fresh chopped scallions
1 cup Hoisin sauce
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup diced seedless watermelon
8 pieces large Bibb or iceberg lettuce leaves
Instructions: In a heavy, non-stick skillet over high heat brown the pork until well done. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to pan. Stir for a few minutes then add scallions. Remove from heat and add the Hoisin sauce and pine nuts. Stir to mix well. Fold in the watermelon. Divide among lettuce leaves, wrap and serve immediately. Serves 6-8/
Variations: I’ve added tiny fresh basil leaves to this recipe and substituted cashews for pine nuts.
Mediterranean Watermelon Salad
6 cups torn mixed salad greens
3 cups cubed seeded watermelon
½ cup sliced onion
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
Cracked black pepper
In large bowl, mix all ingredients except oil and pepper. Just before serving, toss salad mixture with oil. Garnish with pepper. Makes 6 servings.
Greek Pita Flatbread with Watermelon
4 wedges seeded watermelon
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
Dash cayenne pepper
2 whole pita breads halved or whole grain flatbreads
¼ cup prepared spreadable herb cheese
4 large lettuce leaves
Place sliced watermelon on paper towels to remove excess liquid. Mix chicken, cilantro, yogurt, garlic salt, and cayenne. Spread inside surfaces of pita bread halves with herbed cheese and fill each with about ¼ cup chicken mixture. Arrange watermelon and lettuce in pita bread. Serves 4.
Visit www.watermelon.org for watermelon’s healthful benefits, carving instructions, more recipes, and virtually everything you need to know about watermelon.
Lynn K. Leishman