Although watermelons can now be found in the markets throughout the year, the season for watermelon is in the summer when they are sweet and of the best quality.
Originating in Africa, watermelons were first cultivated in Egypt where testaments to their legacy were recorded in hieroglyphic painted on building walls. The fruit was held is such regard that it was placed in the tombs of many Egyptian kings. It is not surprising that watermelon played such an important role in this country, and subsequently in countries in the Mediterranean region, since water was often in short supply in these areas, and people could depend upon watermelon for its thirst-quenching properties.
Watermelons were brought to China around the 10th century and then to the Western Hemisphere. In Russia, where much of the commercial supply of watermelons is grown, there is a popular wine made from this fruit. In addition to Russia, the leading commercial growers of watermelon include China, Turkey, Iran and the United States.
If you have ever tasted a watermelon, it is probably no surprise to you why this juicy, refreshing fruit has this name. Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, giving its flesh a crumbly and subtly crunchy texture and making it a favorite thirst-quenching fruit.
As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, other plants that also grow on vines on the ground. Watermelons can be round, oblong or spherical in shape and feature thick green rinds that are often spotted or striped. They range in size from a few pounds to upward of ninety pounds.
While we often associate a deep red-pink color with watermelons, in fact there are varieties that feature orange, yellow, or white flesh. While most watermelons have seeds that are black, brown, white, green or yellow, a few varities are actually seedless.
Watermelon is not only great on a hot summer day, this delectable thirst-quencher may also help quench the inflammation that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer, and arthritis. Sweet, juicy watermelon is actually packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature.
Good source of vitamin A: Vitamin A has many roles in promoting overall health. It helps your eyes see normally in the dark, promotes the growth and health of cells, and protects against infection by helping to maintain healthy skin and tissues. It also is involved in hearing, taste, growth and normal development of fetuses. A two-cup serving of watermelon provides 20 percent of the recommended daily intake for vitamin A.
Good source of vitamin C: Like vitamin A, vitamin C has many responsibilities in the body. Probably vitamin C’s most well known role is as an antioxidant protecting body cells from damage by free radicals. Studies have shown that cell damage by free radicals may lead to chronic health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants, such as vitamin C, appear to counteract the effects of free radicals. Vitamin C is also required for the production and maintenance of collagen, it boosts the body’s ability to fight infection, and helps keep capillaries and gums healthy. A two-cup serving of watermelon supplies 30 milligrams of vitamin C.
Provides potassium: Although the scientific reasons are not fully understood, foods high in potassium may help protect against high blood pressure. Potassium also helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of body cells, aids in muscle contraction, and helps transmit nerve impulses. Several fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of potassium, including watermelon, which has approximately 350 milligrams per two-cup serving.
Contains lycopene: Watermelon contains 15 – 20 milligrams of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, per two cup serving. Found only in select fruits and vegetables,lycopene, like vitamin C, neutralizes cell-damaging free radicals. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that men who consumed lycopene-rich diets of tomatoes and tomato products had a much lower risk of developing certain cancers, specifically prostate cancer.
Ninety-two percent water: Staying properly hydrated is extremely important, particularly during the hot days of summer. While plain water and other beverages provide a significant amount of most people’s fluid requirements, solid food, especially fruits and vegetables, also provide a substantial amount. Watermelon is 92 percent water by weight, the highest percentage of any fruit.
Low in calories – yet, filling: A two-cup serving of watermelon has only 100 calories. However, as a result of its high water content, watermelon is quite filling.
Low in fat and cholesterol free: Among its other health benefits, watermelon is naturally low in fat and cholesterol free. Research suggests that diets moderate in fat and cholesterol promote health and may aid in the prevention of certain chronic diseases.
How to Select and Store Watermelons:
The best way to choose a flavorful melon is to look at the color and quality of the flesh, which should be a deep color and absent from white streaks. If it features seeds, they should be deep in color.
Oftentimes, however, we do not have this liberty when purchasing watermelon since it is more common to buy a whole, uncut fruit. When choosing a whole watermelon, look for one that is heavy for its size with a rind that is relatively smooth and that is neither overly shiny nor overly dull. In addition, one side of the melon should have an area that is distinct in color from the rest of the rind, displaying a yellowish or creamy tone. This is the underbelly, the place that was resting on the ground during ripening, and if the fruit does not have this marking, it may have been harvested prematurely, which will negatively affect its taste, texture and juiciness.
Watermelons should be refrigerated in order to best preserve their freshness, taste and juiciness. If the whole watermelon does not fit in your refrigerator, cut it into pieces (as few as possible), and cover them with plastic wrap to prevent them from becoming dried out and from absorbing the odors of other foods.
Tips for Preparing Watermelon:
Just a reminder… Always wash the outside of a watermelon with tap water before you cut it open. This is important to prevent the spread of bacteria that might be on the outside surface to the interior of the melon. Due to its large size, you will probably not be able to run it under water in the sink. Instead, wash it with a wet cloth or paper towel.
Depending upon the size that you desire, there are many ways to cut a watermelon. The flesh can be sliced, cubed or scooped into balls. Watermelon is delicious to eat as is, while it also makes a delightful addition to a fruit salad. Jam, sorbet and juice are some nutritious and delicious things you can make with watermelon. While many people are just accustomed to eating the juicy flesh of the watermelon, both the seeds and the rind are also edible.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Watermelon is a wonderful addition to fruit salad. In Asian countries, roasted watermelon seeds are either seasoned and eaten as a snack food or ground up into cereal and used to make bread. A featured item of Southern American cooking, the rind of watermelon can be marinated, pickled or candied.
Watermelon is not a commonly allergenic food, is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.
Islamic Perspective: Some Hadith regarding Watermelons:
The Arabic word for Watermelon as mentioned in the Hadith is ‘Batikh‘ or ‘Bittik‘
- Among the fruits that the Prophet(sallallahu aliyhi wassallam) liked were grapes and watermelons. (Abu Dawood)
- I saw the Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah eating watermelon with dates. ( Narrated Anas bin Malik(radhi yallah anhu) – Tirmizi)
- Prophet Muhammad(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) liked grapes and watermelon. ( Abu Dawood)
- Prophet Muhammad(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) used to eat watermelon with fresh dates. (narrated Ayesha(radhiyallahu anha) – Tirmizi)
- The Messenger(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) of Allah said, ‘Eating watermelon before meals washes the stomach and removes its diseases (Ibn Asakir)
Prepared by AL-Islaah Publications( www.everymuslim.com) from references
1. Medicinal Plants of Prophet Muhammad- Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi
2. Seven wonders of watermelon By Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D. Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University.