August 3 is National Watermelon Day, but that doesn’t stop us from eating it through the entire summer. It’s a mainstay at backyard barbecues and picnics.
On a hot day, there aren’t many things more delicious than a big slice of juicy watermelon, but that’s not just because it tastes great. Watermelons are 92 percent water — hence their name — and that can help you stay hydrated when the weather warms up.
Here are some other tasty facts that also spell out the name of everyone’s favorite healthy summertime treat:
wATERmelons are both a fruit and a vegetable
Their sweet taste give the impression that watermelons are a fruit, but they’re actually considered to be both. Watermelons grow like fruit, originating from flowers pollinated by bees, and from a botanical perspective they’re a fruit since they contain seeds. But many gardeners think of them as a vegetable since they grow them in their gardens like vegetables alongside pea and corn. Furthermore, watermelons are classified as part of the gourd family that includes other vegetables like cucumber, squash and pumpkin.
So you can see the confusion and why depending who you ask, they may fall in either category.
A vitamins are good for your eyesight
Each juicy bite of watermelon is full of vitamins A, B6, and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids. A two-cup size serving of watermelon has about 30% of your daily vitamin A, which has been shown to help protect the cornea and decrease the risk of vision loss of macular degeneration, among other healthy eye benefits.
the united states is a big producer
The U.S. ranks 5th in worldwide watermelon production (According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, China is the first). Forty-four states currently grow the big green melons, with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona leading production. Watermelons are tropical or subtropical plants and need temperatures about (25ºC) 77ºF to thrive.
More than 90 countries worldwide grow watermelons in 1,200 different varieties, according to Stephanie Barlow, Senior Director of Communications at The National Watermelon Promotion Board.
egypt is where watermelons originated
“The first recorded watermelon harvest was about 5,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert,” said Barlow. The first records of watermelons are found in hieroglyphs on the walls of ancient Egyptian buildings. Over time, they have been bred for sweeter flavors, better color and fewer seeds. They entered Europe sometime during the 13th century.
rinds are edible
We tend to just eat the juicy red flesh, but the either watermelon, from red to green, is edible. The very first cookbook in America, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, even has a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
To pickle or make Mangoes of Melons.
Take green melons, as many as you please, and make a brine strong
enough to bear an egg; then pour it boiling hot on the melons, keeping
them down under the brine; let them stand five or six days; then take
them out, slit them down on one side, take out all the seeds, scrape
them well in the inside, and wash them clean with cold water; then
take a clove of a garlick, a little ginger and nutmeg sliced, and a
little whole pepper; put all these proportionably into the melons,
filling them up with mustard-seeds; then lay them in an earthern pot
with the slit upwards, and take one part of mustard and two parts of
vinegar, enough to cover them, pouring it upon them scalding hot, and
keep them close slopped.”
The long held idea that if you eat he seeds of the watermelon, you will grow a watermelon inside of you, is just something made up, probably to scare children. The truth is, the seeds are extremely nutritious, especially when sprouted.
According to the Guinness World Records, the biggest watermelon ever was grown by Chris Kent of Sevierville, Tennessee in 2013. The frighteningly large fruit weighed in at 350.5 lbs.
Just one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times more lycopene than a large, fresh tomato, according to the USDA. A two-cup serving has about 15 to 20 milligrams of lycopene — some of the highest levels of any produce. That matters because lycopene is thought to aid against certain types of cancers including prostate, lunch, and stomach, and heart disease, help bone health and give anti-inflammatory properties.
“There is even evidence that lycopene can help protect the skin internally from UVA rays,” said Barlow. “So when you eat that watermelon on a sunny day, you’re actually protecting your skin, too.”
One melon feeds a lot of people
If you’re looking for a deal in the produce department, look no further than watermelon. Per serving, watermelon is the cheapest way to feed a large number of people. “One melon can feed more than three dozen people for only about 17 cents per serving,” said Barlow, — cheaper than any other fruit and tied only with potatoes in the vegetable department.
National watermelon day
National Watermelon Day is August 3, but watermelons are popular all summer long. The entire month of July is designated Watermelon Month.
In 1995, Jason Schayot set the world record for spitting watermelon seeds. He sent a tiny black seed speeding from his mouth a whopping 75 feet, 2 inches — almost a quarter of a football field. Jason and other former seed spitting competitors aren’t likely to have too much competition, since 90% of watermelons grown are seedless nowadays, according to The National Watermelon Promotion Board.
Healthy Watermelon Sorbet recipe
- 3 1/2 cups fresh, seedless watermelon chunks (about half a watermelon)
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1/4-1/2 cup water, room temperature
- 1/4 cup raw honey (optional)
- Handful of mint or basil leaves (optional)
- Place watermelon chunks in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze overnight.
- Add frozen watermelon chunks to a high-powered blender or food processor. Pour lime juice over top. (Add honey here if desired.) Add a few tablespoons of water to get the mixture started.
- Blend until smooth, adding more water and scraping the sides down to keep the blender or processor moving.
- Transfer contents to freezer-safe container. Eat immediately for a softer texture. Freezer 3-4 hours for a firmer texture.
Note: For storage longer than a few hours, allow at least 15-20 minutes for sorbet to soften up at room temperatures before scooping and serving.
Also see: Hydrating watermelon coconut cooler.