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The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
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is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 08.04.04
Montreal

GREG DUNCAN

Spank your watermelon. I do.

'Tis the season of the baby-like gourd and shoppers everywhere are knocking and thumping in an attempt to determine which of the many in a pile is suited for adoption.

Watermelon sizes vary greatly but no matter which you choose you'll be paying by the pound in most cases. At 29 to 39 cents a pound locally, there isn't a better deal out there this week.

The interesting thing is you are paying for a lot of water and that is exactly what you are looking for. A heavy melon reveals a good dull resonance when spanked properly and a melons' watery content is worth its weight in gold. Far better to hydrate oneself with this elixir than bottled water, I say.

Here are some fun trivia and facts about this vegetable. Vegetable, you say? I wouldn't lie and here's the proof.

Watermelon, considered one of North America's favourite fruits, is really a vegetable (Citrullus lanatus). Cousin to the cucumber and kin to the gourd, watermelons can range in size from 7-100 pounds.

The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5000 years ago in Egypt.

A watermelon was once thrown at Roman Governor Demosthenes during a political debate. Placing the watermelon upon his head, he thanked the thrower for providing him with a helmet to wear as he fought Philip of Macedonia.

Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

The first cookbook published in the United States in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles. Food historian John Martin Taylor says that early Greek settlers brought the method of pickling watermelon with them to Charleston, South Carolina.

The word 'watermelon' first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.

Watermelon is grown in over ninety-six countries worldwide.

In China and Japan, watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.

In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.

In 1990, Bill Carson of Arrington, Tennessee, grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds - it's still on the record books according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Over four billion pounds of watermelon are produced annually in North America.

Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn't contain any fat or cholesterol, is high in fibre and vitamins A and C, and is a good source of potassium.

Over 1200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide.

Every part of a watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds.

Tips for choosing the best watermelon

There's an art to choosing the best watermelon that makes all the difference in the world. The National Watermelon Promotion Board offers these three easy tips for choosing a great watermelon.

Choose a firm, symmetrical fruit that is free of bruises, cuts, and dents.

Before you buy, pick up your melon. The heavier it feels, the better - a good watermelon is ninety-two percent water, which makes up most of its weight.

On the underside of the watermelon there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Watermelon fire and ice salsa

Three cups seeded and chopped watermelon

1 tbs. chopped cilantro
1 to 2 tbsp. (two to three medium) Jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup green peppers
2 tbs. Lime juice

1 tbs. chopped green onion
1/2 tbs. garlic salt

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Makes three cups. Serving tips: Serve with corn or potato chips or serve on sliced oranges or cheese-filled manicotti.

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