Jun 29, 2019
By Kelly Smith
As far back as I can remember watermelons were at every picnic and every BBQ. It's the fruit that can feed a large group like none other. It's refreshing and delicious. Watermelons are in season and will be making their appearance at a farmers' market near you!
Watermelon's origin hails from Africa approximately 5,000 years ago. The watermelon that we eat today is the result of generations of selective breeding, spanning several countries and cultures, producing the sweet red fruit that's now common at summer gatherings. In the beginning watermelons were a bitter fruit with hard green flesh.
It's difficult to trace the exact origin of the watermelon due to muddled classification as far back as the 18th century but there are clues pointing to the first cultivation of the early version of the watermelon in Egypt and North East Africa. It is believed that the early Egyptians cultivated the bitter melons for the ability to retain water. They also stored well for weeks in a shaded area. There are remnants of melons in ancient tombs. The deceased were to take a long journey so the water in the melons would be resourceful for them. Ancient Egypt is also suspected to be responsible for the breeding the bitterness out of the melons. There are paintings of melons in the tombs and one notices that they were changing from the small bitter fruit to the larger fruit with tender flesh.
Besides the watermelon being 90% water, it is also filled with nutrients. It is known for being an aid in asthma prevention. It can help lower blood pressure. The fruit is filled with antioxidants which help prevent cancer. There is a lot of fiber contained in watermelon, that fiber helps promote a health digestive tract. Since the water content is high it's a great source to keep you hydrated in the summer months. It also helps reduce inflammation because of the nutrient, Choline. Choline helps our bodies in sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. You can also find the amino acid L-Citrulline contained in watermelon. This amino acid helps with mucsle soreness and muscle recovery.
California produces approximately 330,000 tones of watermelon per year of the 1.95 million for the United States. Here in Sonoma County you can find local watermelons available at the farmers market. The range from a small personal size to the extremely large family size. They are sweet and juicy making them perfect for salads, aqua frescas or just sliced up.
1 large fresh basil sprig
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
3 1/2"-thick slices seedless watermelon, rind removed, each cut into 6 wedges for a total of 18 wedges
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound micro greens of your choice
1/2 sliced radishes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) queso fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
Heat basil and 1/3 cup oil in a small skillet over medium heat until basil begins to bubble. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Let cool for 1 hour. Discard basil; set aside basil oil.
Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium. Brush grill rack with oil. Grill watermelon until lightly charred, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside.
Whisk remaining 1/2 cup oil, lime juice, and honey in a large bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add micro greens and toss to coat.
Place 3 pieces of grilled watermelon on each plate. Top with micro greens and drizzle basil oil over. Garnish with radishes, queso fresco, and pumpkin seeds.
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