Watermelons are a great summertime treat and are usually in season from June through September. The season can be a bit longer on either side of that spectrum depending on weather and growing conditions. I happened to have some excellent watermelon just this morning – the first of the year for me – and wanted to take a moment to share a couple of reminders about the wonderfully sweet and refreshing fruit (technically considered to be vegetables by the USDA because they are in the squash family, but always a fruit in my mind).
Watermelons are about 90% water and, as a result, are very low in calories in spite of their pleasant, natural sweetness. They are very high in the antioxidant lycopene, and are a reasonably good source of vitamins B6, C and potassium. Some studies have found that the amount of lycopene in a watermelon increases as it ripens off the vine when the fruit is stored at room temperature, making the fruit more nutritious. Fortunately, this was only shown for uncut watermelon; already cut watermelon did not show the same result, so if your idea of summer refreshment is a cold slice of melon, you have little to worry about it. Watermelon will lose a bit of flavor over time in the fridge, so be sure to eat it within a few days of slicing. I do not recommend leaving cut watermelon at room temperature for too long (bad things can happen).
I like my watermelon plain, or with a little bit of salt and lime juice sprinkled on top. Carrying the salty theme a bit further, watermelon goes wonderfully with feta cheese and works quite well with salty ham or pancetta as a summer snack. As more of a meal idea, watermelon gazpacho can be a lovely addition to a menu. Feel free to note your favorite serving suggestions in the comments. I could always use a few new ideas when it comes to serving up watermelon!