Thursday, July 2, 2020

Watermelon for the 4th of July

A piece of watermelon with stars cut out of it and spread around
An hand extended out and holding a piece of watermelon. There is a beach and water in the background.As I write this, we are heading into the 4th of July weekend. Because it’s 2020 and everything is different this year, for many of us the celebrations will be diminished. Here in the Tucson metro area, the only thing skyrocketing is Covid19 cases; fireworks displays have been canceled due to extreme fire danger (and, of course, the virus). But, there is one thing that almost everyone can enjoy this 4th of July and it is as appropriate as any American apple pie: I’m talking watermelon. If you can’t go to the beach, have some watermelon and imagine you’re there. If you aren’t attending a party, make some gorgeous cocktails and sit in the kids’ wading pool. Read a watermelon-themed book while wearing a watermelon hat. You get the idea – just enjoy the summer deliciousness that is watermelon.

A carving of a big cat's snarling face carved from a watermelon.If you are unsure of your commitment to watermelon, here is a fun video extolling its virtues that features the watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher. If you are interested in random facts and deeper information about watermelons, this site has plenty to keep you entertained and informed – and it shows square watermelons.

Many of you may be enjoying, or anticipating the enjoyment to come, of eating your own watermelon. Savoring the fruits of a carefully tended garden is beyond satisfying. If you are still in the how-to-grow-them phase, here is a concise yet thorough guide to growing watermelons. There’s a man in Alabama who clearly does not need growing help, he’s expecting around 15,000 watermelons this year! For more on what that’s all about, go here.

A map in a white shirt sitting amongst piles of watermelons.
For the rest of us who are not watermelon-growing wizards and are harvesting from the supermarket, here are a few quick tests to help pick the perfect one.

2 fruit-filled glasses of pinkish liquid sitting on a cutting board surrounded by pieces of watermelon.Let’s get to the eating and drinking part: If your feast-preparing ritual begins with a frosty alcoholic beverage (yes, please), you have almost endless choices with watermelon-centric drinks. How about a watermelon jalapeño Bloody Mary, watermelon sangria, watermelon margarita, beer-lemonade-watermelon shandy, watermelon Piña Colada, watermelon mimosa or watermelon Jell-O shot? The recipes for some of these are here, while the rest (and so much more!) can be found easily online.

A multi-layered red, white and blue cake with sparkler-like blue decorations coming off the top.Now that you have established your watermelon drink (or at least the first one to try), it’s time to get to eating. You can have watermelon wrapped in bacon or prosciutto, watermelon-feta guacamole, grilled chicken-watermelon tacos, watermelon jerky, watermelon bbq sauce for your chicken or ribs, watermelon pudding or watermelon sorbet. The Barbecued Seafood & Watermelon Salad sounds especially wonderful to me. The choices are extensive; Good Housekeeping alone has 50 tempting recipes for watermelon here.

A salad with shrimp, seafood, watermelon and cucumber - the Barbecued Seafood & Watermelon Salad.
Barbecued Seafood & Watermelon Salad
While researching recipes for this blog, all the watermelon recipes sounded irresistible, but I found myself most entranced by the grilled watermelon recipes. I have never tried grilling watermelon, but since the grill apparently changes the flavor in delightful ways, it will definitely be on the menu this weekend. Southern Living has a good basic recipe here while Grilled Avocado and Watermelon Salad with Lime and Feta Cheese, Grilled Watermelon Pizza, Charred Vandouvan Octopus with Grilled Watermelon and Salsa Verde, Grilled Watermelon Burgers and Grilled Watermelon Sundaes cover all the courses in new and interesting ways. I am looking forward to trying at least one of these grilled treats, although I’m pretty sure my family will think the idea is weird.
Red & white checked high heels with a watermelon graphic on the soles.
While you are eating and drinking watermelon, you could continue the theme (and keep various members of your group entertained) by indulging in some watermelon-centric arts and crafts. This page has links to other blogs and artsy sites with lots of fun-sounding activities. You could extend (probably overextend) the watermelon theme by wearing watermelon-inspired clothing or making watermelon tie-dye to wear at your next watermelon fest.

A hand holding a piece of watermelon in front of a picture of a girl so that it looks like she is wearing a piece of watermelon as a dress.
If you have a teenager in the family, you know that very little of what I have written will interest them. But, you can (perhaps) rope them into the watermelon world by having them use their phones to create “watermelon clothes” pictures. This is where a person takes a picture while holding slices of watermelon to make it look like the person in the picture is wearing clothes made out of watermelon. More on that here. Granted, this was a social media thing 3 years ago, but it may still keep a teenager engaged for a bit.

Looking from behind at a woman with dark hair wearing a white hat and clothes sitting in a white chair while reading a book on a beach.If your idea of a good day is to kick back with a good book, (yes, we do still exist), you can still watermelon it up by choosing a book with watermelon in the title. Here is a list of 34 books with "watermelon" in the title. As trite as it sounds, there really is something for everybody on it. From a dreamy love-child favorite of the late ’60s to non-fiction and international stories, these books reflect how watermelons play a beloved part in myriad cultures. Just don’t forget your watermelon cocktail when you settle down to read.

Images of a watermelon pizza disappearing bite by bite.Some of my happiest childhood memories are of my grandmother’s porch. I remember joyously eating watermelon there with my siblings and cousins. It was the only time spitting was permitted and we would compete to see who could spit their seeds farthest. With very little effort, such homey pleasures can still be had in 2020.

If you didn't read this in time to make your 4th a watermelon one, no worries - National Watermelon Day is August 3rd.

Have a happy and safe Happy 4th of July.

Submitted by Pam

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