August 3, 2022 is Watermelon Day. Watermelon is a summer staple in my family. Most varieties in stores today are seedless watermelons. But as a child I remember having to spit the black seeds as we would eat the watermelon outside. Or removing the black seeds from the melon as I cut it into pieces and placed in a large bowl.
Picking out a sweet juicy watermelon is considered an art. I seem to be good at it. I have grown watermelon in my garden, and determining if the watermelon is ripe on the vine is the same technique as determining if the watermelon is juicy – a tap on the “bottom” as my dad would say. The hollow sound and mild vibration through the fruit lets you know how juicy the watermelon will be. Soft spots are not good, over ripe or bruised.
There are various ways of preparing a watermelon for eating. How I prepare the melon is determined on who is going to be eating the melon. For my grandchildren, I cut the melon into small bite size pieces. For adults, I will slice and cut pie shape pieces allowing the person to eat the melon with getting the sticky “watermelon smile” associated with eating a half slice. Regardless of how you serve the watermelon, salt always allows the sweet juices to be sweeter.
I have even carved a watermelon to use for serving the bite size pieces. Simple to do and makes an attractive decor for the table. One problem I had while carving the cavity is doing it so the bowl sits correctly on the table. I always seem to get a little off and the bowl does not sit perfectly upright. Once I had to cut the rind on the bottom to get the bowl to sit upright and not dump the contents onto the table.
I compost the rinds. But I would like to try making pickled watermelon rind or a pickle relish from the rinds. Recipes and others say the rinds are like cucumbers and you can use the same recipes on the rinds as you do for pickles. An old family friend said it was common during the Depression Era to make pickles from the rinds as they did not waste anything during that time.
I have even seen recipes for a soup made from watermelon rinds.
In the area of Texas where I live, watermelon was grown as a major crop until the late 1980’s. The town I live in was the train stop for the farmers to put their watermelons on the train to be shipped to the cities. The train depot is a feed store now, and the watermelon fields are used for cattle and growing hay. After harvest, the train cars loaded and on their way, a big festival would take place called the Watermelon Festival.
This weekend is the Watermelon Festivals when the communities gather for softball games, a farmer’s market, eating contests and cooking contests as well a many other activities. One community near us has a rodeo during the festival. Although the watermelons are not grown in the community as a major crop, the festivals are still celebrated reminding us of the past, but mostly to have fun and enjoy the activities.