Watermelon-palooza!

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Sunday, August 3 is National Watermelon Day, and we have set out make sure this fruit gets the respect it deserves.

Watermelon is low in calories, ( about 46 per cup) and high in health benefits.  As its name suggests, it is 93% water, making it incredibly hydrating.

It also packs a healthy dose of vitamins C, B1 and B6 and potassium, among others. It’s rich, red hue means it is also full of the antioxidant lycopene, which is also found in tomatoes.

When selecting a watermelon, look for a symmetrical and unblemished melon that feels heavy for its size. When turned over, there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground during the ripening process. If the spot is green, or white, it is not yet ready to be eaten. Always wash and dry the outside of the melon before cutting.

While most of us think of eating watermelon in its purest form, it is actually a very versatile fruit. Not only is the juicy, pink flesh edible, but the seeds and rind are as well.

Here are some great ideas for preparing watermelon:

The melon is easily cut in half and hollowed out to use as a decorative bowl for fruit salad. The flesh can be scooped into balls, or cut into chunks and put back into the hollow rind. Add other fruits for variety, or enjoy it alone.

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Watermelon salad is a novel way to start a meal. Cut the watermelon into chunks, and sprinkle it with lime juice. Toss in some chopped fresh mint leaves, and some crumbled feta cheese.

For a refreshing cocktail, puree the watermelon and strain it through a sieve. Mix it with lime juice, triple sec and a shot of vodka and serve it icy cold.

Make a cold soup out of watermelon, ginger, and fresh mint. Freeze watermelon chunks until firm. Dice some fresh peeled ginger and add it to a pan of water with about 1/2 cup of sugar and simmer until the sugar dissolves and becomes a simple syrup. Put the watermelon into the blender, and puree. Add the warm syrup and blend until mixed. Add more water until the desired consistency is reached. Add a handful of mint leaves and continue to blend another minute.  Taste to adjust sugar and ginger accordingly. Serve in chilled bowls and garnish with more diced ginger or mint leaves.

The rinds of the melon can be pickled. Cut off the fleshy pink part and reserve for another use. Peel off the dark outer layer of skin, and cut the light green rind into chunks. Boil the pieces in salt water for about 5 minutes until softened. Combine 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar, a handful each of black peppercorns and whole cloves, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a heavy pinch of  allspice and ground ginger in a pot and boil until the sugar dissolves.

Pour mixture over the rinds and cover the bowl to keep them submerged. Refrigerate overnight.  Strain the liquid into a pot and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the rinds and refrigerate overnight again. Repeat this process 1 or 2 more times and keep the finished rinds in jars until ready to eat.

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If all of this sounds daunting, have no fear. Head on over to your local Pinkberry to celebrate National Watermelon Day by enjoying their special Watermelon Cooler, a refreshing combination of their original tart frozen yogurt topped with freshly made crushed watermelon puree. Even better, each customer that purchases a medium sized yogurt has a 1 in 10 chance to receive it free! Every 10th cup is specially marked and whoever gets the marked cup gets their yogurt for free. Yum!

Happy Watermelon Day!

Photos: top: Glasshouse Images

Bottom photo courtesy of Pinkberry

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