In Season: Watermelons!
Story by Ruksana Hussain
Photos courtesy The Watermelon Board
When farmers’ markets and grocery stores across the U.S. stock large quantities of watermelon, is there a juicier sign it’s summer?
With increasing regularity and creativity, watermelon dishes are popping up on drink and food menus at restaurants nationwide. The top four watermelon-growing states are Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. Other states grow watermelons, too, so you might find a local supplier wherever you live. Only when the fruit vegetable isn’t in season is it imported from other countries to ensure that watermelon remains available year-round.
Fruit or Vegetable?
Yes. Watermelon is a member of the “Cucurbit” family, so it can be considered a fruit or a vegetable. Some well-known varieties of watermelon include mini, seeded red, seedless red, and yellow flesh.
Every part of the watermelon can be consumed with zero waste. While the flesh of the fruit is used in shakes, smoothies, salad, jellies and more, the seeds can be roasted and added to mixes, sprinkled atop salads, or enjoyed as a snack. The rind can be treated as a vegetable, chopped for stir fry or pickled.
How’s the 2019 harvest? “The U.S. watermelon season is off to a great start with quality and availability this year,” says Rachel Syngo, director of new business at Melon 1, a watermelon grower with farms in eight states.
According to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, watermelons are fat-free, have very low sodium, are cholesterol-free, and are a good source of vitamin A and high in vitamin C.
A surprising number of watermelon festivals are hosted across the U.S.
At a watermelon festival you might witness a carving event, sample products made using watermelon—perhaps even schnapps, liqueur, or wine—and enjoy a wide variety of watermelon dishes, among other fun entertainment.
Although National Watermelon Month is celebrated in July and National Watermelon Day is observed August 3, various community celebrations and harvest fanfare celebrate the fruit vegetable across the calendar. A few examples…
- In Florida experience “A Fresh Slice of Tradition” at the Annual Newberry Watermelon Festival in May.
- Cordele, Georgia—the self-proclaimed Watermelon Capital of the World—hosts a month-long celebration in June. The community also is home to the Watermelon Capital Speedway and a Melon Hotel.
- In Texas, the four-day Luling Watermelon Thump is held the last weekend in June. The town even has a watermelon water tower!
- The Beauregard Watermelon Festival in Louisiana celebrates the harvest of the local Sugartown watermelons every June.
- Oklahoma’s Valliant Watermelon Festival is held each July.
- Berryville, Virginia hosts a Watermelon Park Festival every September.
- Green River, Utah holds a Melon Days Festival every September. It’s also home to a permanent watermelon statue.
- Kellogg, Minnesota hosts a Watermelon Festival each September.
Between trips to festivals and restaurants, of course, it’s easy to enjoy sweet, fresh watermelon at home.
Recipe courtesy Chef Yves Gigot of The Pink House in Genoa, Carson Valley, Nevada. Serves 6.
1 medium seedless watermelon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
25 mint leaves, cut chiffonade
1 large pinch Herbs de Provence
1 cup crumbled feta (use a high-quality block of authentic Greek feta and crumble by hand)
Mix all ingredients except feta and cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Top with crumbled feta before serving.
Chef Yves Gigot serves a fresh summer watermelon salad at The Pink House in Genoa, Carson Valley, Nevada.