On a hot summer day, eating ice-cold watermelon can be as refreshing as a quick swim. Maybe that is why National Watermelon Day falls in August and why, throughout the month, local watermelon festivals take place in at least 14 states from Hope, Arkansas to Sunland-Tujunga, California.
Eating watermelon has gotten easier thanks to the containers of ready-to-eat cubed melon sold at supermarkets and what are called either personal or ice box melons: bowling ball-sized specimens that are usually seedless. I confess, however, to being seduced at least once each summer by Moon and Stars, an heirloom variety of watermelon that has black-green skin splashed with bright yellow markings shaped distinctly like golden suns or full moons and dot-like stars. (It was originally called Sun, Moon and Stars.) Fit for an old-fashioned church picnic, this variety can be found at many farmers’ markets or roadside stands. It’s studded with big, fat pits, making it the ideal ammunition provider for that rite of sloppy summer fun, the seed-spitting contest.
Eating watermelon, which is 92 percent water, is a delicious way to stay hydrated. When you or your kids are active, it makes a nice change from reaching for the water bottle, fruit juice or iced tea, plus you get useful vitamins and fiber in the bargain. Watermelon is also getting more respect recently because its red flesh contains lycopene, a phytochemical that displays cancer-fighting potential, which is also found in tomatoes. (Yellow-fleshed melons are good, too, but do not contain lycopene, which is a red pigment.)
When the temperature skyrockets and watermelon and tomatoes are at their peak, slices of both, alternating on a plate and sprinkled with crumbled feta, make a perfect meal. The salty cheese nicely balances the melon’s sweetness. Or try this delicious Watermelon Granita for another watermelon recipe that helps beat summer heat.
Watermelon Granita - Makes 3 ½ cups, (4 servings.)
1 tsp. sugar + 1/3 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 to 2 pounds cubed seedless watermelon
Mint leaves, as garnish
Using a rasp or fine grater, zest the limes. Place the zest in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar. With back of a teaspoon, rub the zest and sugar together until the mixture is pale green, 1 minute. Juice the limes to equal 1/4 cup juice. Add the juice to the zest mixture, and set aside.
Place the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Add 1/3 cup water. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. When the hot syrup is clear, add the zest and sugar mixture. Off the heat, stir well, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a blender, puree the melon to make 3 cups pulpy liquid. Place the melon in a metal pan that is 9” square or larger. Mix in the cooled lime syrup. Cover with plastic and place in the freezer. The mixture should be no more than 3/4-inch deep.
Freeze until just hardened, about 6-8 hours, then stir the mixture. To serve, scrape well and mix with a fork, then mound the granita into 6 small, clear bowls or glasses. Garnish with mint and serve immediately. (It is best served the day it is made, but the granita can hold in the freezer for 24 hours. Scrape well to loosen it before serving).
Per serving: 123 calories, 0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 32 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, 0 g. dietary fiber, 2 mg. sodium.
"Something Different" is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR's Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offers a Nutrition Hotline online at www.aicr.org or via phone 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, MondayFriday, at 1-800-843-8114. This free service allows you to ask questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. A registered dietitian will respond to your email or call, usually within 3 business days. AICR is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on how the risk of cancer is reduced by healthy food and nutrition, physical activity and weight management. The Institute’s education programs help millions of Americans lower their cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. Over $82 million in funding has been provided. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.