Watermelon For the Win

This ruby red fruit that replenishes and restores is a summertime refreshment.

On a blistering summer day, few comforts are more refreshing than air conditioning. But a cool-crisp slice of perfectly ripe, in-season watermelon revitalizes and rehydrates the body. Seeded, seedless, even yellow, there are more than a few options to suit your preference.

One thousand varieties and counting of this round, decorative fruit exist, and chances are you’ve only tasted a few. As the famed American author Mark Twain said of the ovular fruit, “When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.” 

This summertime favorite, with a green tiger striped exterior and vibrant, ruby red interior, is surprisingly categorized as a berry. A cousin to squash and cucumbers, this vine-grown, luscious fruit has been indulged in for more than 4,000 to 5,000 years. Enjoyment of it is evidenced in illustrations in Egyptian tombs, along with remnants of the fruit’s seeds and leaves. Historians believe the watermelon originated in India, then was taken to China, improved again and, finally, landed in Europe, where it was routed to America. To add to this conundrum of origin, there are words for watermelon in Arabic, Greek, and Sanskrit (to name a few), which indicate the fruit has a long history across cultures.

Greek and Roman doctors believed watermelon to be healing, according to the University of Missouri. The ancient medics considered it a “cooling fruit” used to treat children for heatstroke by placing the rind on their foreheads. Believe it or not, this fan favorite, known for bright colors and sweet taste, was originally bitter and pale. It likely originated from a much bigger, drought surviving, wild melon. Over the years, watermelons have been bred to produce a sweeter taste, and to change the color, shape, and size to fit better in our refrigerators. The red-pink hue we know is thanks to the presence of lycopene, which is also responsible for the red in tomatoes. This quality wasn’t developed until the 1400s, when farmers realized as they cross-bred the melon for sweetness, that the inside became redder, darker, and more aromatic. Scientists say the aroma molecules develop only when the watermelon is being cut into, which releases enzymes from its cells and causes the oxidation of fatty acids.

Watermelon is 92 percent water and 8 percent sugar, meaning the fruit serves to hydrate those who eat it. Filled with vitamins A, B6, and C, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and electrolytes, watermelon is also a replenishing post-workout snack. The spherical fruit can be used alongside goat cheese in a salad, lightly salted and eaten sliced, frozen as a sorbet, and even grilled. A simple Google search of “watermelon” reveals an endless rolodex of recipes including tacos, margaritas, and watermelon jerky — even the rind is edible. The applications are limitless. Whether it’s enjoyed as a savory or sweet addition to a meal, or as a snack, watermelon is the ideal summer fruit.