Danna F. Gillett | 7/14/2011 11:29:41 PM
There is never a better time to enjoy the nutritious benefits of watermelon than during the month of July, National Watermelon Month. Although modern fruit production and shipping methods allow consumers to purchase melons year round, nothing is better than a locally grown melon enjoyed during hot summer days.
A one cup serving of fresh watermelon chunks provides only 45 calories and can be a good replacement for sugar sweetened snacks. It contains no fat or cholesterol, and is low in sodium. The sweet, juicy fruits are over 90 percent water and help supply the body’s daily water needs.
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, a phytochemical that helps prevent cancer. Other nutrients found in watermelon are potassium and Vitamins A, B6, and C. Potassium is a mineral necessary for water balance in the body’s cells and can help prevent muscle cramps. Vitamin A is important for eye health and is immunity boosting. Vitamin B6 helps the body produce antibodies to fight many diseases. It also maintains normal nerve function and promotes the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin C builds the immune system’s defense against infections and viruses. It can also protect the body for free radicals that speed aging and conditions such as cataracts.
Before slicing into that fresh, juicy melon, wash the surface thoroughly with cool tap water. Scrub, if necessary, with a produce brush to remove dirt. Place the melon on a clean surface, such as a cutting board. You may want to place the melon on a baking pan to capture excess juice and seeds. Using a clean heavy knife, slice the melon into thick slices or wedges.
Cut watermelon should not remain at room temperature for more than two hours. Although the aroma of a ripe melon can affect the flavor of other foods, leftover watermelon can be refrigerated in a covered container or zipper storage bag for up to seven days. Watermelon may also be served in salads, salsas, and beverages. Try making watermelon popsicles by removing seeds, pureeing pulp in a blender and freezing in a popsicle mold.
For more ideas about using leftover watermelon, visit www.eXtension.org
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture