Watermelon 101: Picking it, storing it and eating it

Americans eat more watermelon than any other melon variety It’s no surprise with its juicy, fresh flavor! While watermelons grow best in the warmer temperatures of the south, they can be grown anywhere in the country. In fact, farmers in Illinois grow 1,224 acres of watermelons. In Illinois, you’re most likely to find watermelons grown in the sandy soil near the Illinois River Valley. They begin to ripen in early July, but peak season starts in just a few short weeks so get ready to enjoy!

Pick it

Look for melons that are very heavy and have a hard rind. Ninety percent of watermelon is water. The rind color should be right for the variety with a waxy bloom. The most important indicator of ripeness is the underside which sets on the ground. Turn the melon over. It should be yellow or creamy colored on the underside. If it is white or pale green the melon is not ready to harvest.

Store it

The flesh should be deep colored with mature seeds. Most watermelons have dark brown or black seeds. The seedless variety produces a few white seeds. Once picked, uncut watermelon can be stored for about two weeks at room temperature, or refrigerated between 45 to 50°. Uncut watermelons have a shorter refrigerator life, so store at room temperature until ready to chill and eat. Tightly cover cut pieces in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for two to three days. The best way to enjoy watermelon is when it’s fresh and sweet, but seeded watermelon chunks can be frozen to use in watermelon slushes or fruit smoothies.

Eat it

Watermelons are low in calories and very nutritious. Watermelon is high in lycopene, second only to tomatoes. Recent research suggests that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, is effective in preventing some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.Watermelon is also high in vitamin C and vitamin A.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board suggests washing whole watermelons with clean water before slicing to remove potential bacteria. Watermelon tastes best raw. Heating diminishes the flavor and softens the texture. Try it icy cold in fruit smoothies and slushes or simply eaten from the rind.

Check out some watermelon recipes to try here: https://www.farmflavor.com/tag/watermelon/