Enjoy Fresh Local Watermelon Now and Later!!
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Watermelon is the most popular melon in the United States, followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. Melons come in a variety of colors and flavors. Melons grow on vines in sandy soil in the coastal plain of eastern North Carolina or in the northeastern region of the state. Watermelons come in many different sizes and aren’t always red inside. Yellow and orange watermelons are generally sweeter than red-fleshed watermelon. Some have seeds and some do not. Watermelons can be anywhere from 1 pound to 25 pounds. Most watermelons are harvested late June until August.
How to Pick a Watermelon
There’s an art to selecting the perfect watermelon. To determine the ripeness of a watermelon, look for a yellow spot on the rind. This is where the watermelon sat on the ground and it turns yellow as the fruit ripens. It’s worth picking the melon up, too. If ripe, it will be heavy. Watermelon is mostly water, so the heavier it feels, the juicer it may be. As a last check, give it a few taps and listen for a hollow sound.
If the watermelon is still unripe, the spot on the rind will be white. When tapping an unripe watermelon, the fruit will make a full, flat sound. If the fruit feels lightweight or there are signs of bruising or blemishes, choose a different watermelon.
How to Cut Watermelon into Triangles (aka Wedges)
To create watermelon wedges or triangles, trim ½ inch or so off one of the watermelon ends so it sits flat on the cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the watermelon in half. Place the melon cut-side down on the cutting board, then use the knife to slice 1-inch thick pieces (or your desired width). You should now have several half-moon shaped watermelon pieces. Stack 3 to 4 pieces on top of each other, cut these pieces in half, then in half again if desired for smaller wedges. Repeat to cut the whole melon into triangles.
How to Cut Watermelon into Sticks
To create watermelon sticks that are perfect for parties or a playful service idea (that kids and kids at heart especially adore), trim ½ inch or so off one of the watermelon ends so it sits flat on the cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the watermelon in half. Place the melon cut-side down on the cutting board, then use the knife to cut 1-inch slices (or your desired width). Turn the melon 90 degrees and slice perpendicular to the original cuts to create 1-inch sticks.
How to Cut Watermelon into Cubes
Now that you have sticks, you can easily transform these into cubes. Simply cut across the strips to create cubes of watermelon in any size you desire.
How to Cut Watermelon into Melon Balls
To create watermelon balls, trim ½ inch or so off one of the watermelon ends so it sits flat on the cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the watermelon in half. Open the watermelon to separate the two halves, then slice each half in half. Position the watermelon quarters so the flesh side faces up. Using a melon-baller or small cookie scoop, press into the watermelon flesh and rotate the scoop to form a ball. Repeat to create as many melon balls as are needed for your recipe or to use up all of the flesh.
Is watermelon rind edible?
It sure is! You can of course compost it, too, but we love to make Watermelon Pickles using the rind. It is usually left behind but the watermelon rind is completely edible and tastes like a cucumber. They’re from the same plant family, called cucurbits. Some pickle the rinds. Others chop for stir-fry.
Watermelon Rind Pickles Yield: About 4 or 5 pints.
- 3 quarts (about 6 pounds) watermelon rind, unpared
- 3/4 cup salt
- 3 quarts water
- 2 quarts (2 trays) ice cubes
- 9 cups sugar
- 3 cups 5% vinegar, white
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon (about 48) whole cloves
- 6 cinnamon sticks, 1 inch pieces
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, with seeds removed
Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning. Both are available online at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Procedure – Trim the pink flesh and outer green skin from thick watermelon rind. Cut into 1 inch squares or fancy shapes as desired. Cover with brine made by mixing the salt with 3 quarts cold water. Add ice cubes. Let stand 3 to 4 hours.
Drain; rinse in cold water. Cover with cold water and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes (do not overcook). Drain.
Combine sugar, vinegar, water, and spices (tied in a clean, thin, white cloth). Boil 5 minutes and pour over the watermelon; add lemon slices. Let stand overnight in the refrigerator.
Heat watermelon in syrup to boiling and cook slowly 1 hour. Pack hot pickles loosely into clean, hot pint jars. To each jar add 1 piece of stick cinnamon from spice bag; cover with boiling syrup, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel;
adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process hot packed pint jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let cool, undisturbed, 12-24 hours and check for seals.
Melons are a healthy choice
Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Melons contain vitamins A and C. Vitamin A helps keep your vision good, fight infections, and keep your skin healthy. Vitamin C helps your body heal cuts and wounds and helps lower your risk of infections. Melons are also a good source of carotenoids. These are antioxidants that may lower your risk for some diseases by keeping your body safe from free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells. Remember to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day to get the nutrients you need to be healthy.
Healthy Serving Ideas
- Slice and eat melons as a snack or side dish at meals.
- Serve sliced or chopped melons with low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Scoop fruit into melon balls.
- Freeze melon balls and enjoy as cold snacks on hot days.
- Blend low-fat yogurt, chopped melon, frozen strawberries, and a banana. Pour into cups and serve.
Here is a yummy way to enjoy Watermelon as a Fresh Salsa!
Watermelon Salsa serves 6
- 3 cups seeded and chopped watermelon
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories 28, Carbohydrate 6 g, Dietary Fiber 1 g, Protein 1 g, Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, and Sodium 2 mg
Sources for this article NC Extension Food and Nutrition, Meds instead of Meds educational program. For more information about the Foods and Nutrition please contact Louise L. Hinsley, Extension Agent, Family Consumer Science at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Beaufort County Center, 155 Airport Road, Washington, 252-946-0111.