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Please pass the watermelon

On summer days when the temperature soars, I tend to complain. A recent response from an astute friend to my whining comment stayed with me. He said, “Hot weather makes lemonade and watermelon taste better.”

“Indeed”, I thought. “Lemonade that is; watermelon — not so much.” I have never been a big fan of watermelon, but everyone else I know seems to be.

My 8-year-old grandson and his cousins visited us last week. They prefer it to candy. My brother puts salted watermelon chunks in a delicious crab salad. In fact, that salad is so good it started me rethinking the whole watermelon life experience.

I find myself picking up watermelon more often of late. Having researched information about the best purchase, I know seedless mini-melons with brightly colored flesh are juicier as well as healthier. I now know to look for the yellow spot on the watermelon. It is always there because it is an indicator of where the watermelon rested on the ground. If that spot is a creamy yellow color, give it a thump. A ripe melon will give you a deep hollow sound, “which means it’s brimming with juice and at the peak of its ripeness.”

I find myself serving watermelon to summer guests more often. Most people resonate with having it as a salad or dessert option. They also seem to welcome an end-of-visit question, “Would you like to take home the leftover watermelon?” That is, if there is any.

In case it is not already apparent, I’m rethinking watermelon. I have sharpened our big cutting knife and reminded myself to always wash the melon before slicing into it, recognizing the knife cutting into the fruit touches the rind. I can envision the many places that a watermelon was before it landed on the breadboard in my kitchen.

A few more watermelon facts in case you need them. The name accurately describes this fruit, which is composed mainly of water. It’s low in calories and fat; it has no cholesterol. It does have lots of anti-inflammatory lycopene.

The health benefits of eating a slice of watermelon range from improving hydration to providing an amino acid that is said to positively impact blood flow. There are a few side effects if you overeat watermelon, but so far I do not have that problem. Check web.md.com for more detail.

And in my research I find, of all things, a recipe for watermelon soup (nytcooking.com). It’s described as a “simple, refreshing, gazpacho-like, chilled soup with watermelon sweetness.” The sweet taste is “tempered with olive oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt.” Chives, basil and mint are required, so I will have to go to the store. More informed than I was at the beginning of writing this column, I’ll probably pick up yet another melon, tapping finger at the ready.

I cannot opine on the tastiness of the watermelon soup because I have yet to make and try it, but I am doing that tonight. I may leave out the “dash of cayenne pepper” it recommends. When it comes to expanding the aging palate, it’s better to take things one step at a time.

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.