A welcome antidote to summer

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High in water content and low in calories, watermelons are a must-have to beat baking afternoons

“When one has tasted it (watermelon), he knows what the angels eat. It was not a southern watermelon that Eve took; we know this because she repented.”

Mark Twain

Watermelons and Indian summers are made for each other. The ice-cold, reddish-pink inside of a chilled watermelon is the perfect antidote to a baking hot afternoon. The original wild fruit, discovered in the pharaohs’ tombs and still found growing in sub-Saharan Africa, is Lilliputian compared with the Brobdingnagian hybrids common worldwide. The Guinness book entrants weigh over 250 pounds. China grows most of the world’s watermelons.

Food uses: Let us count the ways… the fruit flesh (obviously!), rind, seeds, tender leaves, and flowers, are all edible. The fruit flesh is eaten out-of-hand, juiced or turned into ice cream. The Russians boil the juice down into molasses-like syrup and even make beer from it. The people of Namibia make an alcoholic drink from the fruit. In Africa, the dried rind is eaten cooked. Pickled rind is a snack in the southern US. Powdered dried seeds are a tenderizer and spice in Indian cooking. Flour from the seeds adds nutrition to cereal flours in Africa and is a good soup base. Fried or steamed seeds are a common street food in southern Africa. Seed oil is suitable for frying and as a salad oil. The tender leaves and shoots are edible as vegetables, added to curries and soups or dressed as a salad. The flowers are edible after frying in butter.

Nutrition: The watermelon is mostly water, sugar and some vitamins. One can gorge on it without worrying about calories. Hundred grams of the fruit flesh contains 91 gm of water, 30 Calorie from 6 gm of sugar, and small amounts of Vitamin C, B Vitamins and carotene. Lycopene, an antioxidant pigment, gives red fruit its colour. Red fruit have more provitamin A than yellow or white-fleshed ones. The quantities of nutrients are disappointing at first glace, but that is because we underestimate the value of water as a nutrient. Because many people consume a pound or two of watermelon in one sitting, the total nutrients amount to a significant proportion of the daily requirements.


(The writer is a specialist in Internal Medicine)




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