|Photo courtesy of Watermelon Promotion Board|
It's so disappointing when you have your taste buds all set up for a juicy melon, but cut into something that's either overripe and mushy, or underripe and pithy, or just lacking in sweet, summery flavor.
Some people seem to know how to pick a great watermelon, but my luck is hit-or-miss. Over the years I've heard many tips, and I've tried them with varying degrees of success.
In Utah, one caveat that does ring true is that your chances of getting a good melon are actually better in late August and September, when Green River melons go on the market. Green River is the Utah's prime melon-growing spot, where the hot days and cool nights make a sweeter melon. You can find the identifying "Green River" signs and stickers in grocery stores and farmers markets.
And yet, many people lose interest in melons after the July holidays and the Labor Day picnics are over. They don't realize the best is yet to come.
A few years ago I visited Green River and asked melon growers how to pick a good melon.
Nancy Dunham told me a ripe watermelon, when tapped, is supposed to have the same pitch as a B-flat. But what if you can't tell a B-flat from a C-sharp?
"It's supposed to sound crisp and hollow, with just a little wiggle in the middle," she added. "If it makes a dead thump, it's overripe."
A tip from Chris Dunham: "Pat your stomach and listen carefully to that sound. Then pat the melon and see if the sound of the melon matches the sound of your stomach."
Also, the underside (where the melon sat on the ground) should be creamy yellow rather than pale green or white, a sign of ripeness. The Watermelon Promotion Board says to look for a firm, symmetrical melon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it; it should be heavy for its size, since it's 92 percent water.
Even with all the stomach-patting, thumping, smelling and lifting and inspecting, that perfect watermelon can still be elusive. You taste that first slice, and the fruity sweetness is lacking. So, the rest of the melon sits in the fridge. Nobody will eat it because they know it won't get any better.
I have a better idea: Use that not-so-great fruit as a watermelon spritzer. A spin in the blender solves the over or underripe texture problem. You still get the flavor and nutrients of the watermelon — the antioxidant lycopene, vitamins C and A and potassium. If you use a diet soda or plain club soda to supply the fizz, it's fairly low in calories, too. It makes a refreshing drink for after school, or after work.Years ago when my son played high school football, he and one or two friends would eat a whole watermelon nearly every night after practice. Wish I would have thought of this spritzer sooner; they might have enjoyed it as well.
The Watermelon Promotion Board developed a recipe for Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade, as another beverage idea.
5-6 cups diced watermelon, seeds removed
12-ounce can of diet lemon-lime soda, chilled (or 12 ounces club soda or seltzer water)Puree the melon in the blender until completely smooth. Place a few ice cubes or crushed ice in two tall glasses. Pour half of the watermelon juice into each glass, and top it off with some of the soda. Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge, or a sprig of mint, if desired. Serves 2.
— Valerie Phillips
WATERMELON RASPBERRY LEMONADE
6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup raspberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juicePlace watermelon, raspberries and water in container of electric blender, cover and blend until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer into pitcher. Stir in sugar and lemon juice until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Serves 4.
— Watermelon Promotion Board