Categories:Cooking Articles Fruit HIstory Summer Watermelon
Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus, family Cucurbitaceae) is a vine-like flowering plant and loosely considered a melon. It has a smooth hard exterior with a juicy sweet interior flesh. Watermelon is thought to have originated in Southern Africa where it grows wild, however there is evidence of the cultivation in Egypt in the Nile Valley as early as the 2nd millennium BC.
Because of the hot desert climates, watermelon was a valuable source of supplying water when natural water supplies were contaminated and watermelons were portable.
Watermelon seeds have been found at 20th Dynasty sites and in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamum. Watermelon is also mentioned in the Bible as a food eaten by the ancient Israelites while they were in bondage in Egypt. It is believed that European Colonists and African slaves helped in distributing the introduction of watermelon around the United States in the 17th Century. Many African-Americans today do not like the association with watermelon and the negative stereotypes connected with racism.
Today in the United States, Watermelon is grown in over 44 states and serves as a popular summertime fruit loved by all age groups. More than 1200 varieties of watermelon exist. The flesh can range in color from red, orange, yellow or white. Today China is the single largest grower of watermelon
2nd Millennium BC – Cultivation of watermelon in the Nile Valley
10th Century – China began cultivating watermelon
13th Century – Moorish Invaders introduced watermelon in Europe
16th Century – Watermelons were grown by Native Americans
1635 – Watermelon made its first appearance in an English dictionary in John Mariani’s Dictionary of American Food and Drink.
Wikipedia – Watermelon
Zohary, Daniel and Hopf, Maria (2000) Domestication of Plants in the Old World, third edition, Oxford University Press, p. 193, ISBN 0198503571.
Freedman, David Noel and Myers, Allen C. (2000).
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Amsterdam University Press. pp. 1063–, ISBN 978-90-5356-503-2.
Watermelons, Annie’s Heirloom Seeds.
Watermelon History, Home Cooking, by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
Watermelons – Egyptian Watermelons and It’s Seeds:
Article by Maha Barsoom, Personal Chef and Caterer
Nothing says summer like a big bowl of juicy slices of watermelon! Cooling and delicious, I think it is the ideal summer food or may be drink. As in hot days I also love drinking chilled fresh watermelon juice as well!
The first evidence we have of people eating watermelons goes all the way back to ancient Egyptian, where watermelons were recorded in hieroglyphics.
Watermelon is one of the favorite fruits in Egypt. Millions of Egyptians enjoy eating red and juicy watermelon fruits in the hot summer of Egypt. I remember getting back home after being out in a hot day in the summer of Egypt and getting a bowl of red juicy and sweet watermelon slices from the fridge. There is nothing that can beat that! It quenches thirst and its sugar gives lots of energy. Egypt does not have seedless watermelons so eating roasted and salted watermelon seeds in the summer is one of the traditional Egyptian snacks and one of my favorite as well.
Watermelon has the highest amount of antioxidants among all fruits and vegetables
It is rich in vitamin A & C and is also high in potassium. Watermelons are the way to stay hydrated in a hot summer, because it is 90% water.
How to pick a delicious and ripe watermelon – Here are few tricks:
- Look for one that has a yellow mark, as this indicates that the watermelon was ripened on a vine and not picked too early.
- Make sure the skin is firm and the watermelon is symmetrical in shape, either round or oval.
- Knock on the watermelon with your hands and the sound should be hollow.
- Watermelons are 90% water, so an ideal melon should be heavy for its size.
- Store your watermelon on the counter or at room temperature this increases the amount of Lycopene in the watermelon which is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against degenerative diseases.
- Once it is cut, keep it in the fridge and consume.
Roasting Watermelon Seeds:
Don’t toss your watermelon seeds – Roast them!
Watermelon seeds are good source of vitamin B and are full of minerals like magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, Zinc, Iron, potassium and Copper. Also it is a good source of fibers which helps in digesting the food. Many of my friends asked for the recipe on how to roast watermelon seeds and there is nothing simpler than roasting watermelon seeds. To my friends who asked me about how to roast watermelon seeds, the recipe is below.
- Collect only the black watermelon seeds and place them in a colander (do not use the small white seeds). Rinse well under cold running water to remove any excess watermelon.
- Put the rinsed watermelon seeds in a frying pan on medium heat. Keep stirring the black seeds in the pan till they are almost completely roasted. How to know when they were almost roasted? When 1 seed pops like popcorn.
- Stir some salt in a 1/2 to 1 cup of water. Water is according to amount of seeds you are roasting. Go easy on the salt, you do not need much.
- When the watermelon seeds are almost completely roasted, pour the salted water slowly in the hot pan and keep stirring till the water dries out. Allow seeds to completely cool before tasting them.
- At this point, your black tasty watermelon seeds will be ready for you to try out.
When the seeds cool down, pick one, crack it open with your teeth, and then eat the small kernel inside it. Yummy! That taste is really good!
Watermelon Recipes – Recipes Using Watermelon:
Egyptian Watermelon Feta Salad
Here’s a delightful Egyptian Watermelon summer salad shared with What’s Cooking America by Chef Maha Basoom. Maha specializes in Egyptian cooking and teaches cooking classes on Egyptian cuisine all over North America and Europe. Not only it is full of healthy juices, but it’s super delicious, tasty, and inexpensive. Most barbecues go hand in hand with the cool crunch of a big juicy watermelon.
Mint Julep Watermelon
I created this interesting and delicious watermelon recipe because I had some Mint Julep Simple Syrup in my refrigerator and a watermelon that needed to be used. My thoughts were “What could be better than this eat it and drink it recipe.”
The Merchant’s Wife Cocktail – Watermelon Cocktail
This cocktail is by Chef Jeff Mahn fromStella Rosa Pizza Bar, in Santa Monica, California. Mahn says that the drink was named for a 1918 painting by Russian artist Boris Kustodiev that depicts a buxom woman sitting on a sun-soaked balcony to enjoy her lavish breakfast – which includes a watermelon as curvy and lush as she is.
Tomato Watermelon Salad with Prosciutto
This recipe is from Chef David Burke, executive chef at David Burke & Donatella in New York City.
Watermelon Aqua Fresca
Enjoy the essence of the sweet summer strawberries in this refreshing drink. Fresh fruit drinks are very popular all over Mexico and are served from large barrel-shaped glass containers.
Watermelon Cubes with Aged Balsamic Vinegar
This appetizer recipe is by Rick Tramonto, Amuse-Bouche: Little Bites That Delight Before the Meal Begins, Random House, October 2002.
Watermelon Gazpacho Soup
This recipe is from Eating Well Magazine. The delicate flavors of cucumber and watermelon go hand in hand to create a sweet-and-savory chilled soup, perfect as a first course on a hot night.
Watermelon in Rose-Lime Syrup
I adapted this wonderful refreshing dessert/drink from the blog called As Dear As Salt by Richa of New Jersey. A very refreshing and cooling summer drink or dessert. My husband likes to add some gin to his glass.
Watermelon Salad with Mint Leaves
Recipe from Paula Deen ofPaula’s Home Cooking television show. This is a very beautiful salad and also delicious!
Very refreshing on a hot summer day!