Happily Spitting Watermelon Seeds

As many of you know, I love summer and the relaxed vibe it brings to our daily lives. There are many reasons that run the gamut, but the things I love most about this time of year is the produce. Sure, I love late sunsets, sultry breezes, afternoon thunderstorms and swimming outdoors, but it's the brilliant colors and perfumes of tomatoes, berries, cucumbers, basil and watermelon that make all that humidity worthwhile.

Yellow watermelon
Yellow watermelon: How can you resist?(Kim O'Donnel)

Speaking of watermelon, it has arrived at local markets. This weekend, I picked up a baby beauty, with a gorgeous yellow flesh, nearly the color of a daffodil. And how sweet it is! To me, there is nothing like slurping on a hunk of watermelon. It makes me feel like a kid, racing to eat the flesh down to the rind before it drips all over my clothes.

If you're up for a little experimentation, take that melon on a savory route. Botanically speaking, the watermelon is really a vegetable, as a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, sibling to the cucumber and squash.

Try a few of these ideas on for size:

Add basil or mint to watermelon chunks, or perhaps red onion, cucumber, even a sliced chili pepper. Greens such as arugula or watercress, or thinly sliced fennel are also lovely watermelon partners. A squeeze of lime on top adds a tropical spritz that takes me elsewhere for a few minutes.

Outside of the produce world, consider teaming it up with a smidge of cheese -- be it feta or a hunk of chevre.

If none of these savory ideas appeal, consider pureeing a hunk of watermelon and making a soup or freezing into fab popsicles.

Nutritionally, the watermelon is high in water content, which makes it an important source of water in Africa. Next time you spit out the seeds, remember that they are considered a valuable source of plant fat and eaten as snacks in Nigeria. Its beautiful color also serves an important role -- as antioxidant donor-- serving up large doses of lycopene or betacarotene, depending on the color of the flesh.

Got a favorite way to eat watermelon? Better share with the class!

Even bloggers need to take a break. So that's what I'm doing. By the time you read this, I'll be laying prostrate on a yoga mat in the Berkshires. I am praying for spotty cell phone service. In the interim, washingtonpost.com Food and Dining editor Erin Hartigan will be guest blogging for a few days, and I'll resurface from yogic bliss on Friday, with a nirvana report.

Also coming up: As soon as I return to Washington, I'll board another plane, bound for Oakland, Calif. My fellow road tripper and I will drive south a wee bit until we arrive in Gilroy, known as the garlic capital of the world. I'll arrive just in time for the 28th annual Garlic Festival. Stay tuned for that wacky dispatch.

Now I'm really out of here...

By Kim ODonnel |  July 24, 2006; 9:34 AM ET Seasonal Produce
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Botanically speaking, anything with seeds is a fruit. The family business is irrelevant (squash and cucumbers are fruits, too). That said, I love watermelon savory-style, such as with feta.

Posted by: well, actually | July 24, 2006 10:17 AM

Sprinkle some salt on your watermelon, and it extracts the water and sugar, making it sweeter and juicier when you bite in. Sounds strange, but once you try it, you'll be a convert!

Posted by: Southern Style | July 24, 2006 2:03 PM

I, too, noticed the error. Watermelons are not vegetables. I'm not sure where you got your 'botanical' information, but most cucurbits are fruit-bearing vines, and watermelons are no exception. Please try to be more accurate! (Although you are certainly correct about them being delicious!)

Posted by: botanist | July 24, 2006 4:18 PM

Have fun at the festival! I thought it was pretty garlicky and the grub was decent. Although, as much as I love garlic, the garlic ice cream was not my cup of tea!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2006 5:01 PM

Watermelon is great with feta, as mentioned--but add cilantro and no one will stop eating.

Posted by: Kathy | July 24, 2006 5:26 PM

Have mercy on me, people. I'm on vacation, but when I get back, I'll share my source on watermelons being veg.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | July 24, 2006 5:34 PM

It's not a question of your "source" -- it's just botany. Leaves and stems and roots and such are vegetables, even if the plant also bears fruit. The fruit of the plant is, well, fruit -- regardless of whether we consider it sweet or not. Cucumbers and squash and watermelons are all fruit. Tomatoes are fruit. Calling them vegetables won't change that, no matter what your confused "source" tries to tell you.

Please check with an actual scientist if you are not clear on this. Mistakes creep into everyone's writing. Insisting the error is not really an error, rather than a quick "oops, didn't catch that!" just undermines your credibility (and my enjoyment of your writing!). Good luck.

Posted by: Patata | July 25, 2006 10:26 AM

Hey Kim, I hope you are having a relaxing vacation.

For what it's worth, the CDC says watermelon is a veggie (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/5aday/month/watermelon.htm).

I think my favorite way is with arugula, feta, lemon juice and a nice olive oil.


Posted by: kim fan | July 26, 2006 6:58 PM

Actually, the link offered in the previous post goes to a page that refers to watermelon both as a fruit and as vegetable, further demonstrating the confusion over this issue. The CDC is not a botanical resource. The mature ovary of a flower is fruit, and this is precisely what a watermelon is. That it is related to cucumbers and squash, popularly called vegetables (but really fruits!) is irrelevant. Any botanical reference will confirm this. Fruits are often tagged as "vegetables" by the government for trade reasons and tax laws (e.g. tomatoes) but, botanically speaking, this does not make it so!

Posted by: College Prof. | July 27, 2006 11:23 AM

Well, la-di-da, College Prof, I too am a professor (though not of botany). My point was more that there is confusion on the topic, and that our own Dept. of Health and Human Services says: "Watermelon, the fruit that is really a Vegetable."

The sanctimony and inherent swagger of some of these previous posts ("Please try to be more accurate!" and "Please check with an actual scientist...") are really annoying, especially when one is expecting comments that actually pertain to serving watermelon.

I think the first post was sufficient, and managed to be tactful at the same time.

Posted by: kim fan | July 27, 2006 1:24 PM

pickled watermelon anyone? i've had it first as a child and loved it every since. it's very easy to make - cut up chunks of watermelon and put them in a jar of pickle juice (leftover from your favorite pickles) - let it pickle for a few days of so in the fridge and enjoy.

also, another favorite is to eat watermelon chunks with a nice french baguette

Posted by: Anna | July 27, 2006 2:59 PM


Posted by: jOE | August 20, 2006 11:44 PM

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