Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Watermelon heaven

Look at this beautiful hunk of watermelon.  Look at the little black things scattered through it -- children, they're called seeds.

In the olden days, all watermelons had seeds.  Dealing with them was an integral part of eating the watermelon.  Perhaps you would swallow them, causing consternation among friends who thought you would die and/or get pregnant as a result.  If you were outside, you would spit the seeds into the undergrowth, perhaps in competition with your brother for who could get the most distance.  The world record seed spit, in case you don't follow that sport, is 75 feet 2 inches.

But today, seeds are becoming obsolete.  Who even knows these days why babies' swimsuits have black spots on the red??

Even though seedless melons are more difficult and expensive to grow, they are taking over the world.  In 2003, 42% of the watermelons sold in grocery stores had seeds, but last year that was down to 16%.  Apparently people want to buy seedless because they serve melons cut up in fruit salad, not in a big hunk on the plate or in the hand.  High-end chefs like seedless too so they can serve melon in fancy preparations where seed disposal would be too time-consuming (if done by the kitchen staff) or low-end (if done by the diners).

Nevertheless, many foodies believe that the old-fashioned watermelon tastes better than the new varieties.  I agree with them.  For the last several years we watched the seeded melons disappear from our grocery store.  Some years we'd find only one or two loads of seeded all summer.  Curiously, the seeded melons were usually priced higher than the seedless, which makes little sense, but we'd buy them anyway.  Last year we found no seeded melons at all.  We'd occasionally buy a seedless melon but it was never as good as we remembered from the past.

Saturday we were at the farmer's market and asked, as we were checking out, whether the watermelons over in the corner had seeds.  The dark green ones didn't, but the striped ones did.  We took the biggest striped melon we could find, and toted it with some difficulty the long block to where we'd parked.  And it is magnificent!

By the way, I've heard people badmouth watermelon because of its high glycemic index.  Research, perhaps fueled by wishful thinking, led me past the scare stories and to the nutritionists who point out that yes, the carbs in watermelon are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, but there are so few of them -- it's mostly water -- that your glucose level will barely stir.  

So next week we'll be back to the farmer's market hoping for striped melons.  And one of us will stand on the sidewalk with TWO melons while the other one brings the car around.


  1. And...without seeds, how can one have a watermelon seed spitting contest?


  2. what a dreadfully cute little baby. used to have a drink in belgium prepared by an argentinian that was basically watermelon juice with a splash of lime juice over ice - very refreshing and quenching.