*Information taken from The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Micahel Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. with Laura Pizzorno, M.A., L.M.T.*

Citrullus lanatus ranges from a few pounds to upward of 90 pounds, and is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family (which include cantaloupe, squash, pumpkins and other ground vine plants). Its native region is the Kalahari Desert. The first recorded watermelon crop was found in Egypt (no surprise there since almost all first recorded things are found here), depicted in hieroglyphics on tomb walls dating as far back as 3000 B.C. Egyptians regarded the watermelon highly and left it as nourishment for the dead. From there, it traveled up and around the Mediterranean, into China (documented around the 1oth century), and into Europe by the 13th Century. But, it was not until 1615 that the term “watermelon” first appeared in the English dictionary.

Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, and is very low in calories (1 cup = 48 calories). It is a great source of Vitamin C (1 cup = 19.5% of the recommended daily value), beta-carotene (13.9% Vitamin A through this), lycopene, Vitamins B1 and B6, panthothenic acid, biotin, magnesium, potassium, and dietary fiber. It is an excellent diuretic, delivers more nutrients per calorie due to its low calorie count, delivers some of the most important antioxidants in nature (including that red carotenoid pigment from lycopene), and is a good source of pure water.

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Look for watermelons that have a smooth surface and white/cream-colored underbelly. Indicators of a good watermelon include firm, juicy red flesh and dark brown to black seeds. The presence of white streaks in the flesh or white seeds indicates immaturity. Since watermelons are among the foods on which pesticides have been most frequently found, it is recommended that you buy organic when possible. Wash the melon thoroughly to prevent the spread of pathogens like Salmonella. Refrigerate watermelons to preserve freshness, taste and juiciness. If too large, cut into piece and wrap to prevent dryness and the absorptions of odors.

Most of all, enjoy it in all kinds of ways, from frozen sorbets to fresh summer salads. What a great way to begin “the first weekend of summer”! Dig into that melon, and don’t forget that the rind is also edible!