There are few fresh fruits and veggies about which you can truthfully say, “Use it or lose it!” After all, if you don’t eat it fresh, you can it or freeze it. Usually.
One of the joys of summer and early fall is sweet, juicy watermelon, which is definitely not something you want to attempt to either can or freeze. We’re talking about vine-ripened melon, usually available only at the end of summer — there’s a big difference.
Watermelon is a vining, flowering plant originally grown in southern Africa. It is a large annual plant with coarse, rough leaves and white to yellow flowers that requires a lot of space to grow. It is grown for its edible fruit, which is actually not a fruit at all it’s a berry.
It has a smooth, hard rind, and is generally green with dark green stripes. The inside is sweet and juicy, usually deep red to pink. Thanks to years of hybridization, it can sometimes be orange, yellow, or even white. It may have many black seeds (which are best used to get distance in seed-spitting contests) or have none that are noticeable at all.
Watermelon is usually eaten raw, but can also be cooked. The rind makes delicious pickles.
Like a lot of other seasonal produce, watermelons have been hybridized so you can buy them in central Ohio after they’re grown somewhere with a tropical climate pretty much all year ’round. Be warned, however, it’s never quite as sweet as a vine-ripened local melon.
This recipe, in all its many forms, has been around a long time. Make it while you can still buy some seasonally sweet watermelon.
WATERMELON SALAD WITH MINT
1 5 pound watermelon
1 medium sweet onion (look for Vidalia)
1/4 cup red wine or Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
4 ounces crumbled Feta cheese
Cut the colored flesh from the inside of the melon. Discard seeds (or save them for a spitting contest). Cut flesh into bite size pieces. Peel and slice the onion into rings.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, salt, and pepper and whisk until salt dissolves. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. Add chopped mint, taste and adjust the seasonings.
In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion and feta. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and fold gently to coat the melon and onion evenly.
Serves about eight generously.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.