Celebrate National Watermelon Day

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017

By Jennifer Howard

Many of us don’t need a special reason to enjoy a sweet, juicy, delicious watermelon, but if you do, Aug. 3 is National Watermelon Day!

Ice-cold watermelon is a wonderful and nutritious treat on a hot summer day. Watermelon is more than 90 percent water, making it a great way to keep you and your family hydrated after a long day.

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Watermelon grows on a vine and is related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin. There are many different kinds of watermelon, many of which are grown in Kentucky.

They can be spherical or oblong in shape. They have thick green rinds that are often spotted or striped, and they come in uniquely-colored melon varieties, such as yellow-fleshed. The seedless variety of watermelon has helped this crop become even more popular.

Watermelon is an excellent, low-calorie, nutritious snack.

Two cups of watermelon provide just 80 calories.

Despite being mostly water, you are still getting adequate amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as getting as much lycopene as a tomato. Lycopene is the plant compound that gives plants their red, orange and yellow color and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage.

Picking a watermelon is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

1. Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon free from bruises, cuts or dents.

2. Lift it up. The watermelon should feel heavy for its size.

3. Turn it over. The underside of a watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

It is also important to remember to wash the outside of the melon under clean running water before cutting into it; once the melon is cut, it should be stored covered in the refrigerator. Don’t leave cut melon at room temperature longer than two hours total time.

To help you celebrate National Watermelon Day, try this Plate It Up/KY Proud recipe.

Awesome Watermelon Salad

— 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

— 1 teaspoon lemon juice

— 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

— 1 teaspoon chopped garlic

— 1/2 teaspoon fresh diced cilantro

— 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

— 1/4 cup olive oil

— 3 cups cubed (2-inch) watermelon

— 3/4 cup crumbled, low-fat feta cheese

— 1/2 red onion, sliced very thin

— Coarse ground black pepper

— Cilantro for garnish

In a small bowl, mix vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Stir in garlic, cilantro and black pepper. Slowly pour olive oil into the mixture while whisking vigorously. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Combine the watermelon, low-fat feta cheese and red onion in a large bowl; toss lightly to mix and season with coarse ground black pepper. Pour half of the dressing over the salad mixture; gently toss to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Drizzle remaining dressing over salad and garnish with cilantro just before serving.

Yields: 8, 1/2-cup servings.

Nutritional analysis: 110 calories, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 190 mg sodium, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 3 g protein.

Don’t forget to shop our Winchester-Clark County Farmers’ Market for watermelon and more locally-grown produce. The market is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays on historic Depot Street.

Shop early and shop often!

For more Kentucky Proud watermelon recipes, visit us on the web at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/clark

Jennifer Howard is the Clark County Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences.