Watermelons are one of the few foods that can actually be considered both a fruit and a vegetable, and as such have diverse culinary uses. More often than not, watermelons are used as a fruit because of their sweetness. But watermelons are a lot more than just sugar.
The watermelon is a vine-grown plant that originated in southern Africa, and like the pepper, tomato and pumpkin, is a fruit by botanical standards.
However, since it is planted from seeds, harvested and then cleared from the field, watermelon is also technically a vegetable.
Despite their sweet flavor and high water content (92 percent), watermelons are also very nutrient dense. In fact, watermelons offer more lycopene than fresh tomatoes, have virtually no fat, are low in sodium and contain vitamins A, B6 and C.
Watermelons are also incredibly heart healthy. Eating watermelon produces citrulline and free arginine, two amino acids that help maintain cardiovascular health.
Choosing and Storing Watermelons
So, how do you choose and store watermelons? When shopping for watermelons, look for those that are firm and symmetrical without cuts, dents or bruises. Then pick it up – it should be pretty hefty because of its water content.
Lastly, look at its underside. You should spot a creamy yellow area (the ground spot) from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
When you get home, you can probably store a whole melon at room temperature for about a week. Watermelons need a more tropical climate than most fruits – 55 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Cut watermelons should be wrapped up and stored in the fridge between 37 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing your watermelon will result in a puddle of mealy, mushy flesh.
And, believe it or not, watermelons should be washed in clean running water before eating them. Even though they have rinds, the FDA recommends washing all fruits and vegetables, regardless.
There are quite a few varieties of watermelons, although we most commonly see seedless watermelons in our supermarkets.
- Picnic watermelons run anywhere between 20 and 45 pounds and have a dark green striped rind and black seeds.
- Icebox watermelons are slightly smaller (5 to 15 pounds) with a solid dark or light green rind and red or yellow flesh.
- Seedless watermelons come in a variety of sizes and in both yellow and red flesh. Technically, they aren't really seedless, though. They have small, edible white seeds.
- Yellow watermelons are 10 to 30 pounds with bright yellow flesh and black seeds. These taste a little bit different and often have a subtle honey flavor.
- Mini watermelons range from two to seven pounds, have dark red flesh and are usually seedless.
Besides being great for cookouts, picnics and family outings, watermelons are also healthy and versatile. Be sure to check out the recipe link below featuring watermelon as a vegetable!