There is nothing better than eating a juicy slice of watermelon on a warm day — not only is watermelon delicious, but it is also nutritious.

Watermelon contains high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risks of cancer and other diseases. A serving of watermelon is also an excellent source of vitamins A and C along with being a good source of vitamin B6 and potassium.

We eat watermelon like a fruit but technically it is a vegetable. Watermelon can be traced back to Africa and is part of the cucumber and squash family.

Early watermelons were mainly rind and seeds. Today’s varieties are larger, the flesh sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. It is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst quenching fruit of all. Watermelon consists of 92% water and 8% sugar, so it is aptly named.

On average, each American eats more than 17 pounds of watermelon each year.

What to look for: Choose firm, symmetrical, fruit free of cracks, bruises, soft spots or mold. Ripe watermelon will have a healthy sheen, dried stem and a buttery yellow underside where it touched the ground. There should be a melon like smell or fragrance.

Lift them, weight should be heavy for size. Avoid watermelons that are very hard, white or very pale green in color on the underside, indicating immaturity. An immature watermelon will be slightly acidic.

How to store: Watermelons can be kept for short periods of time, up to two weeks, uncut at room temperature.

Wash the outside of the melon under clean running water before cutting into it, use a clean knife on a clean cutting surface and wash your own hands with soap and water before cutting the melon. Once melon is cut, it should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

Don’t leave cut melon at room temperature longer than two hours.

Varieties: There are about 50 varieties of watermelon on the market. They all taste similar, but vary in size, flesh color, and whether they are seeded or seedless. Most have red flesh, but there are orange and yellow-fleshed varieties.

Enjoy this super-quick and refreshing salad featuring melon and feta cheese. You can substitute any of your favorite fresh-cut fruit items, such as grapes, mangoes, etc.

Fruit and Feta Salad

Preparation time: 15 minutes

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 dash black pepper

For the salad:

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 2 cups cantaloupe chunks
  • 1/4 cup medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups fresh spinach or arugula
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.

Toss with remaining ingredients and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 221 calories, 15 g fat, 223 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 6 g protein.

Recipe from: Product for Better Health and USDA’s Mixing Bowl

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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