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Watermelon: more than just a simple snack

Anna Aughenbaugh
Fort Collins, Colo.

Watermelons are grown in 44 states and come in all sizes ” some seedless and some with seeds. They can weigh 3 pounds or over 200! Commercial growers plant huge fields of them, but they can be grown in backyards, especially bush type plants.

Handle melon seeds with care because they are easily crushed. They don’t sprout easily, so be sure to wait to plant until the soil is warm. To be sure of getting one to eat before frost, choose seeds with a short growing season and start plants indoors in peat pots that can be put into the garden without disturbing the roots. Transplant seedlings when the first true leaves unfold and daytime temperatures are in the mid 60s.

Watermelons need full sun, hot days and rich, loose soil. Their tap roots can reach down 4 feet. They like lots of humidity, so in a dry climate, will need to be watered often and sprayed with a water soluble fertilizer. They will do well with a black plastic mulch that will warm the soil and keep weeds away. Keeping the area weed-free cuts down on nibbles by mice. Cover the seedlings with plastic milk jugs that have the bottoms cut out if the temperatures turn cold. Cut back on watering after the melons start to ripen ” this makes them sweeter. To keep melons from getting sun scorched, cover them with a lightweight sheet. There’s no foolproof way to know when a watermelon has ripened to perfection. The bottom will turn from white to a light yellow. A ripe melon feels heavy for its size and has a dull sound when thumped, not a sharp one. If it sounds too dull, it may be overripe.

Twenty-pound melons will provide about 20 cups of cut up melon and are great for large groups and for carving a melon basket, but the small cantaloupe size is perfect for most family meals. Whole melons can be stored at room temperature for seven to 10 days. Wash the outside of melons before cutting to prevent getting bacteria inside, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to three days.

Watermelons are 92 percent water, so they make a great snack for people who play outdoor sports. They are loaded with vitamin A and C, as well as lycopene, a great antioxidant. A 2 cup serving provides just 100 calories.

When you’ve had your fill of sliced watermelon, these recipes may give you good reasons to continue bringing them home.

Melon Salsa

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

3 c. chopped, seeded watermelon

1 c. peeled, chopped seedless cucumber

1 c. chopped, seeded cantaloupe

1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped fresh mint

1 Tbsp. minced, seeded jalapeno

2 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together sugar and lime juice until sugar dissolves. Gently toss remaining ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 5 cups. This can be made 2 hours before serving. Strain to remove excess liquid.

Watermelons are grown in 44 states and come in all sizes ” some seedless and some with seeds. They can weigh 3 pounds or over 200! Commercial growers plant huge fields of them, but they can be grown in backyards, especially bush type plants.

Handle melon seeds with care because they are easily crushed. They don’t sprout easily, so be sure to wait to plant until the soil is warm. To be sure of getting one to eat before frost, choose seeds with a short growing season and start plants indoors in peat pots that can be put into the garden without disturbing the roots. Transplant seedlings when the first true leaves unfold and daytime temperatures are in the mid 60s.

Watermelons need full sun, hot days and rich, loose soil. Their tap roots can reach down 4 feet. They like lots of humidity, so in a dry climate, will need to be watered often and sprayed with a water soluble fertilizer. They will do well with a black plastic mulch that will warm the soil and keep weeds away. Keeping the area weed-free cuts down on nibbles by mice. Cover the seedlings with plastic milk jugs that have the bottoms cut out if the temperatures turn cold. Cut back on watering after the melons start to ripen ” this makes them sweeter. To keep melons from getting sun scorched, cover them with a lightweight sheet. There’s no foolproof way to know when a watermelon has ripened to perfection. The bottom will turn from white to a light yellow. A ripe melon feels heavy for its size and has a dull sound when thumped, not a sharp one. If it sounds too dull, it may be overripe.

Twenty-pound melons will provide about 20 cups of cut up melon and are great for large groups and for carving a melon basket, but the small cantaloupe size is perfect for most family meals. Whole melons can be stored at room temperature for seven to 10 days. Wash the outside of melons before cutting to prevent getting bacteria inside, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to three days.

Watermelons are 92 percent water, so they make a great snack for people who play outdoor sports. They are loaded with vitamin A and C, as well as lycopene, a great antioxidant. A 2 cup serving provides just 100 calories.

When you’ve had your fill of sliced watermelon, these recipes may give you good reasons to continue bringing them home.

Melon Salsa

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

3 c. chopped, seeded watermelon

1 c. peeled, chopped seedless cucumber

1 c. chopped, seeded cantaloupe

1/4 c. finely chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped fresh mint

1 Tbsp. minced, seeded jalapeno

2 Tbsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together sugar and lime juice until sugar dissolves. Gently toss remaining ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 5 cups. This can be made 2 hours before serving. Strain to remove excess liquid.


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