Watermelon — a Summer Favorite

As far as foods go, I think a good, sweet, juicy watermelon on a hot day is one of the prettiest sights there is, and one of the best, most wonderful things to eat.

I haven’t always been quite as enthused as I am now about this great summer treat, but a few years ago, I had my eyes and my taste buds opened.

My husband Bob and I had signed up for a BREW Bicycle Ride – BREW standing for Bicycle Ride Exploring Wisconsin. (The pun of it all that it was a tour of many breweries in southwest Wisconsin, stops along the way separated by miles and miles of hot, dry, and very hilly riding.)  When we finished our riding for the day, usually 50 or 60 miles, the hosts of the ride had nice snacks in a shady place for the group, almost enough relief to get us to converse about how great a ride it was.  We forgot the work and the pain of it all fairly quickly.

On the longest, hottest, driest, hilliest, and seemingly never-ending day of cycling, I remember coasting, thankfully, into a green, shade-protected park. The first thing I saw, even before I could breathe properly, was a beautiful watermelon all cut up and ready for us.  It was truly the most wonderful and memorable of treats.

Since that summer I look forward to melon season, and enjoy lots of watermelon. Aside from the flat-out delicious and refreshing gifts of the fruit, watermelon boasts of many benefits to the human body, most of them stemming from its abundance of lycopene, with higher percentages of it than its smaller red friend, the tomato.

As if looking beautiful and tasting delicious weren’t enough, watermelon is very supportive of good health and vibrant energy.

Its  lycopene is said to

-lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer
– decrease inflammation in the body
– help with overall hydration and hydration
– increase bone health

The vitamin A in watermelon is stellar for your skin and the amino acids citrulline and arginine help to improve circulation and athletic performance.

Here are some fun facts about watermelon to share the next time you are feasting on it.

It is related to cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash.

It probably originated in the Kalahari Desert in Africa. The ancient Egyptians placed watermelons in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. The first recorded watermelon harvest is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics from about 5,000 years ago.

Merchants spread the use of watermelons along the Mediterranean Sea.  By the tenth century, watermelons had found their way to China, which is now the top producer of watermelons.

The Moors in the 13th century brought watermelons to Europe and early explorers used them as canteens.

Watermelons likely came to the United States with African slaves, and the first cookbook published in the United States in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

The watermelon is the state vegetable of Oklahoma, and by weight, is the most consumed melon in this country.

All parts of the watermelon can be eaten, including the rind, and all parts contribute to the health and well-being of those who enjoy it.

And for the best picks in watermelon, watch this short video for guidance. You’ll be glad you did!

Enjoy this wonderful summer treasure early and often!

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