Try Watermelon Salsa
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I recently cut into a whole seedless watermelon and was disappointed to find a large hole or crack inside. I checked with the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s website and found this to be common. Watermelon growers call it “hollow heart”. It is caused by weather conditions such as cold snaps, heat waves or too much rain during the growing season. They say it is perfectly safe to eat.
Picking a Ripe Watermelon
There was nothing to indicate this on the outside when I bought it. I think it’s fun to watch people at the store trying to select a watermelon from the pile. I seem to remember an old saying about thumping on a watermelon: If it sounds like thumping on your head it’s not ripe, if it sounds like thumping on your chest it’s ready, and if it sounds like thumping on your stomach it’s definitely too ripe.
Back to the watermelon growers. They don’t recommend watermelon thumping, but say if you insist, listen for a dull, muffled hollow sound when it’s ripe. An unripe melon will sound more metallic and ring clear.
So, if you’re not thumping, how do you know if it’s a good watermelon? According to the NWPB picking a whole watermelon is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts, or dents. A few scratches on the rind are okay.
- Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water, so most of the weight is water.
- Turn it over. The underside or the belly of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. If the belly is white or pale it is underripe.
Our Extension Master Food Volunteers have a Produce Fact sheet on watermelon. The featured recipe is:
- 3 cups seeded and chopped watermelon
- ½ medium onion (yellow or sweet), chopped
- ½ red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon chopped and seeded jalapeno pepper
- 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice (fresh or bottled)
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Before you begin. clean your hands and kitchen counter. Wash the cilantro, peppers, onions, and outside of the watermelon. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 1 hour to allow flavors to blend. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours and use within 1 day for best quality. Makes 6 servings. Serving size: 1/2 cup (about 28 calories per serving).
The Extension Master Food Volunteers (EMFV) offer these additional tips about making watermelon salsa:
- It can be served as a snack or dip with chips and crackers or over fish or chicken or atop tacos.
- Customize the recipe to your own liking: add green peppers instead of jalapenos for no heat or use milder poblano peppers for some heat.
- Tomatoes or corn can be added for a more traditional salsa. Use your imagination!
To see EMFV Jane Kulesza prepare this salsa check out our YouTube video.
A food safety tip: even though we typically don’t eat watermelon rind, wash the outside before you cut into it. This helps eliminate the risk of transferring bacteria from the outside of the rind onto the moist internal fruit when cutting.
Uncut watermelons will keep at room temperature for 2-3 weeks. Once cut they should be stored in the refrigerator. Covered cut melons will keep several days.
Nutritionally, watermelons are fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. It is also high in vitamin A and vitamin C. Two cups of watermelon contains 80 calories.
National Watermelon Promotion Board
The National Watermelon Promotion Board (NWPB) is a non-profit organization that represents the growers, shippers, and importers of watermelon in the United States. Their goal is to increase consumer demand for watermelon through promotion, research, and education. Their website is a great source of information about watermelon including recipes, tips for carving, nutrition information, and a section I really like called Watermelon 101 that answers lots of questions about watermelon. There is even an interesting debate on if it should be considered a fruit or a vegetable. (Spoiler: it can be both).
The NWPB website has several other watermelon salsa recipes you could try. How about Watermelon Strawberry Mint, or Watermelon Fire and Ice, or Watermelon Avocado salsas? The ideas are endless and will get you thinking about watermelon as more than just something to take to a picnic.
Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center, 910-253-2610.