Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The great missionary-explorer, David Livingstone, found large tracts of watermelons growing wild in central Africa.
Watermelon is 92% water and they were a source of water for thirsty traders, who began to sell the seeds in cities along the ancient Mediterranean trade routes. By the 10th century, watermelon found its way to China, which is now the world’s number one producer of watermelons. Watermelon arrived in North America courtesy of European colonists and African slaves. Today, by weight, watermelon is the most consumed melon in the U.S and they are available in many sizes and varieties in supermarkets everywhere.
Eating watermelon is not just fun – it is healthy too! Watermelon is chock full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals which are highly reactive molecules that damage cell membranes, attack DNA, and cause disease. Tomatoes are often associated with lycopene, but watermelon contains higher levels than fresh tomatoes.
Watermelon can also help maintain cardiovascular health. Watermelon has amino acids, citrulline and arginine, that help maintain the arteries and blood flow. A 2-cup serving of watermelon is also an excellent source of Vitamins A, B6 and C. These vitamins provide optimal eye health, help the body cope with anxiety and panic, and bolster your immune system’s defenses.
Age to introduce: 8-10 months. Small, seeded pieces of watermelon are a terrific finger food – maybe a little messy, but oh so sweet!
Toddler Treat: WOW Watermelon Soda
Exotic soda flavors are soaring in popularity, but many of them are filled with unhealthy artificial ingredients and high fructose corn syrup. Why not try making a homemade watermelon soda that the whole family will love?
This recipe will take a few minutes to make, but it’s quite simple and the fresh watermelon flavor is totally worth it. To make the soda, you’ll make watermelon syrup and add sparkling water or club soda to it. Enjoy quick access to watermelon soda all summer by making a batch of the watermelon syrup and freezing it in So Easy Baby Food Trays (or ice cube trays). When thirst heats up, simply drop a cube into soda water. It’s an instant refresher!
- 5 cups of seeded chopped watermelon
- 5-6 Tablespoons superfine sugar
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups of sparkling water or club soda
Directions: Puree the watermelon in a blender or a food processor. Pour the watermelon puree into a fine strainer set over a bowl. Let it stand for 20 minutes until the juice has drained through. Stir the watermelon gently one or twice, but do not press the puree or the syrup will be cloudy. This will yield about 2 cups of watermelon juice.
Stir the superfine sugar, lime juice and salt into the watermelon juice until dissolved.
To serve, pour ¼ – ½ cup watermelon syrup with ½ cup sparkling water in a glass. Top with ice and enjoy!
Watermelon for the family
At the market: Check the watermelon out. Look for a firm, symmetrical watermelon with no bruises, cuts or dents. Lift it. The watermelon should be heavy for it’s size. The underside of the watermelon will have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Pre-cut watermelon: Available in many markets, this is a nice option for a small family or when a whole watermelon is too much.
Storage: A whole watermelon can be stored at room temperature until ready to cut up.
Cubes of watermelon: Place in covered container and refrigerate immediately. Stays fresh for 3-4 days.
Pre-cut watermelon: Keep the cut surface of a melon covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Stays fresh for 3-4 days.
Preparation: Wash, slice or cube and enjoy.
Tasty ideas to add watermelon into your family meals:
Terrific Breakfast Treat: Cut up watermelon into bite-size chunks and place them in a cereal bowl, top with a fruit-flavored yogurt, sprinkle with a healthy helping of granola. Dig in!
Watermelon Dippin’ Stix: Here’s a simple creamy snack or dessert. Cut watermelon pieces into 3-inch long sticks. Stack the sticks on a plate and serve them with a bowl of vanilla yogurt flavored with a touch of lime juice and chopped fresh mint or ranch dressing for dipping.
Shrimp and watermelon skewers: Shrimp and watermelon are a wonderful flavor combination. This simple dish is great as an appetizer or light lunch. Start with a few wooden skewers, thread cooked shrimp and watermelon cubes on the skewer. Place on a serving plate and drizzle with Thai peanut sauce or ginger vinaigrette.
Multi-Melon Salad: A perfect side dish with grilled fish, pork or chicken. Mix equal parts, cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon cubes in a bowl. Toss with raspberry vinaigrette. Sprinkle with blanched almonds, shredded coconut and dried cherries.