This time of year, our thoughts are with the watermelon. My kids are constantly asking for that luscious fruit. Although not available from local producers yet, the southern crop is ready and willing.

Originating in Africa, it has been a part of civilization for a while. There were pictures of watermelons in the Pharaoh’s tomb. Prized for its ability to be a portable source of liquid, it was being cultivated in Asia and Europe by the 10th Century AD. The northern parts of America were growing watermelon within the first decade of the landing of the Mayflower. Pickled watermelon rinds were a recipe in the first cookbook printed in the United States. So it has a rich history.

Eventually, the United States became the leading exporter of watermelon. We export watermelons to all seven continents. Although we import to Japan, they have really taken to this berry. They have created the seedless watermelon and they also grow a lot of square watermelons. They grow them in boxes and make for easier transport and better profit. We have started growing seedless watermelons in the United States and since then, watermelon consumption has grown three-fold.

Did you think I made an error by calling the watermelon a berry? It is known as a pepos and is a member of the berry family. When buying this berry, there are a few rules to follow. First, look for a firm fruit that is free from bruises, cuts and dents. Next lift it up, it should be heavy for its size, the heavier it is, the more liquid that is in it. Make sure it has a creamy yellow spot on the bottom as a sun-ripened watermelon is the best.

In our house, the watermelon is too big to just eat as wedges. So we have done some unique preparations to get it moving out of the refrigerator. We have made salad, pickled it, grilled it, but always eat it all.

So kick up your heels to Tracy Byrd’s hit single “Watermelon Crawl” and try these recipes.

Watermelon Banana Split

2 bananas

watermelon

1 cup fresh blueberries/raspberries

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

caramel topping

whipped cream

Split bananas in half and place in 4 dishes. Scoop out three watermelon balls with ice-cream scoop for each dish. Top each ball with fruit. Top with caramel and whipped cream. Add any of your other favorite ice cream style toppings.

Watermelon Dip

1 cup sour cream

¼ cup brown sugar.

Watermelon stix or small wedges

Instructions

Blend together the sour cream and sugar. Use as a dip for the watermelon and any other fruit.

Watermelon Salad

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, julienned

½ small watermelon, cubed

2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup chopped cilantro or mint

Salt and pepper

Toss together watermelon, onion and cucumbers. Whisk olive oil and lime juice along with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with fruit, veg and mint/cilantro. Top with feta.

Grilled Watermelon

1 small seedless watermelon

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Balsamic vinegar reduction

Cut watermelon in 1-inch to 2-inch wide slices. Cut circles in 4

Sprinkle with salt

Drain in colander for an hour.

Pat dry with paper towel.

Brush with olive oil

Place on very hot grill about 5 minutes on first side, 2 minutes on second. Should form grill marks.

Cut melon off rind. Serve hot or cold, drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction.

Watermelon/Turkey Kebabs

Watermelon

Smoked turkey breast

Cheddar cheese

Cube watermelon, turkey and cheese and place on skewers.

Watermelon Salsa

Replace some or all of your tomatoes with diced watermelon.

Watermelon Pizza

Cut full watermelon slice about 1 inch thick.

1 cup strawberry or raspberry jam

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup raisins

½ cup sliced strawberries (slice top to bottom to look like pepperoni)

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions

Pat watermelon dry. Spread jam on watermelon slice. Top with coconut and rest of toppings. Be creative and add other toppings. Cut into 6, like a pizza.

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