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How can something that tastes so great be so good for you? I bought this “baby” watermelon at a Farmer’s Market over the weekend and it was delicious (fun fact: Florida is one of that nation’s top growers of watermelon). Watermelon’s got a lot going for it – it’s gorgeous, absolutely delectable, fun to eat, refreshing, and incredibly nutritious. Believe it or not, watermelon is one of the best sources of lycopene, a phytochemical that has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer and heart disease. In addition, watermelon contains plenty of vitamin A (which promotes eye and skin health), and vitamin C (which boosts the immune system). It also contains potassium (which helps control blood pressure) and fiber (for digestive health), and one cup (size of a baseball) provides just 40 calories!
These small, round “personal” watermelons are called waterbabies or bambinos. I love them because they’re much more manageable than traditional giant watermelons. But in order to get a good one, you have to know how to pick ‘em. Watermelons won't continue to ripen much after they've been harvested, so be sure to choose one that was picked at its peak ripeness. There are two tell tale signs – first, it should feel heavy for its size, and second, you should see a creamy yellow splotch on the underbelly (if the splotch is white or green, the watermelon was harvested too soon).
Oh and one more thing (ok, maybe 2 or 3) - be sure to wash it well before slicing so you don’t transfer any bacteria from the outside onto the flesh, and store your watermelon at room temperature before slicing (research shows that antioxidant levels will climb by up to 40% if not refrigerated), but place any sliced leftovers (if there are any) covered in the fridge.
And remember, watermelon can be an ingredient too. Check out this recipe for Chunky Watermelon Salsa – it’s amazing! I’ve made it many times but I always omit the sugar, salt and pepper. It’s great with fajitas!
And before I go, a few more fun facts:
-Watermelon is thought to have originated in Africa
-China is the world's single largest watermelon producer
-Japanese farmers have grown square and pyramid shaped watermelon by growing them in various shaped boxes
-The largest watermelon on record is 262 pounds (yikes!)
-Over 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown throughout the world