Having a ball with melons

July 26, 2006|By KAREN GILLINGHAM | KAREN GILLINGHAM,TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

You could make a case for watermelon as the most fun and happy fruit.

Fun? Sure. Just rub down a 10-pounder with some Coppertone, toss it into a pool along with a few kids and see what happens. Or give them each a greased mini-melon to race with across the pool.

Later, accompany dessert of watermelon with a seed-spitting competition. And who could find a happier Citrullus lanatus (that's watermelon by another name) than one that's been plugged and spiked with vodka?

The United States grows hundreds of watermelon varieties. Besides the traditional oblong picnic melons with red flesh and lots of black seeds, most markets carry round types with yellow and orange flesh and no seeds.

For a healthful summer snack (watermelon has the highest lycopene content of any fruit or vegetable and is a good source of vitamins A and C), freeze cubes of watermelon in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray.

Place the cubes in the freezer until frozen, then transfer to a zippered plastic bag and store in the freezer. The cubes also can be used to add a hint of flavor and color to a pitcher of water, tea, lemonade or limeade.

Don't stop at eating just the flesh. The rind can be turned into delicious pickles and, in some cultures, the seeds are toasted for a snack. But eating the seeds isn't as much fun as spitting them.

Karen Gillingham wrote this article for Tribune Media Services.

Spiced Watermelon With Yogurt Dip

Serves 4

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste

4 cups cubed watermelon

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

In a skillet set over medium-high heat, stir together salt, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Cool. Place watermelon in large bowl and sprinkle with toasted spices. In another bowl, mix together yogurt and cilantro. Serve watermelon with wooden picks for dipping into yogurt.

Karen Gillingham

Per serving: 92 calories, 4 grams protein, 1 gram fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 4 milligrams cholesterol, 631 milligrams sodium

The juicy details

BUYING

There's no mysterious thumping needed when choosing a watermelon. Look for a firm, symmetrical shape that is free of bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92 percent water, the reason for its heft.

Turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. If the spot is white, the melon was picked too early.

STORING

Refrigerate whole watermelon for up to a week. (If the melon is too large to fit in the refrigerator, store it in a cool, dark place for up to four days.) Not only does watermelon taste better cold, chilling prevents the flesh from becoming dry and fibrous.

Refrigerate cut melon in plastic wrap or an airtight plastic container for up to two days.

COOKING

To easily cube watermelon, cut the ends off. Stand it up on one flattened end and use a sharp knife to cut off the rind in strips from top to bottom. Cut the peeled melon crosswise into slices. Stack a few slices at a time and cut them into cubes.

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