By Wendy Williams
THERE are few things more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a slice of chilled watermelon.
And those of us living in the south of Spain are fortunate that the fruit – of which there are 1,200 varieties – is grown right here on our doorstep.
In fact Spain is one of the world’s largest watermelon producing countries harvesting nearly 50 per cent of all those grown in the EU.
It is actually originally from southern Africa but was introduced to Europe in the 13th century by the Moors.
In Spain today the main growing areas are Andalucia, Murcia and Valencia, although it is grown almost everywhere.
Moreover, right now is the perfect time to enjoy the fruit, which is 92 per cent water and which grows throughout the summer and early autumn.
Not only is it deliciously refreshing it is actually good for you as it is packed with antioxidants and is a good source of vitamin C.
To choose a properly ripened melon the standard method is to flick the middle finger against the melon which should produce a deep thudding sound.
Meanwhile if you are purchasing a ready sliced melon, look for bright red flesh with dark brown or black seeds – too many white seeds means it was picked before its prime and it will never develop full flavour.
Of course, at the opposite end of the scale, if you have more melon that you know what to do with and it is getting over-ripe and mushy, why not make it in to a drink?
Simply cut it into cubes, pop it into the blender, and sip away – adding some lemonade for a bit of fizz.
Watermelon can also be used as an ingredient for salads (particularly with red onion), cakes, cold soups and drinks.
Another little-known fact is that watermelon rinds are edible and contain many hidden nutrients. In China (the world’s biggest producer), the rind is actually used as a vegetable and is stir-fried, stewed or pickled.
Here we offer some watermelon inspired recipes to make the most of this summer fruit…
2 pounds watermelon rind
1/4 cup pickling salt
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon broken stick cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
Trim the dark green and pink parts from the watermelon rind.
Cut rind into 1-inch pieces.
Soak watermelon rind overnight in a mixture of the pickling salt and water. If it takes more to cover, use the same proportion of salt to water.
Drain and rinse watermelon rind.
Cover rind with cold water in a large saucepan; cook just until tender.
Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, whole cloves, and one cup of water. Simmer mixture for 10 minutes, then strain.
Add drained watermelon rind and lemon slices. Simmer the mixture until watermelon rind is translucent.
Fill hot half-pint jars with watermelon rind and syrup mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids.
Process in boiling water bath for five minutes.
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 pounds seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grenadine or pomegranate juice, Optional: Sprigs of mint for garnish
Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water over high heat, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.
Let cool. Place half of the watermelon and half of the lime juice in a blender and process until smooth.
Repeat with remaining watermelon and lime juice, and then return all of the puree to the blender.
Add the syrup and grenadine and blend.
Press puree through a coarse strainer, pushing through the solids.
Pour into a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Freeze, stirring and scraping with a fork every 30 minutes, until all of the liquid has frozen.
This should take about three hours.
Stir again before serving.
Serve in chilled glasses and garnish with sprigs of mint.