Summertime is basically upon us. My boys are finished with school, having high enough grades and low enough absences to be exempt from finals. My daughter is on the countdown with half days to finish out the middle school year (exemptions are only for high school credit classes).
We are starting to make our summer plans. Yes, I am a slacker when it come to planning far out into the future.
For me, one of the signs of summertime is watermelon. Cool, refreshing, and, if picked just right, so sweet! According to this chart by the USDA-Florida, Georgia, California, and Texas account for over half of watermelon production. I used to pass watermelon fields all the time as a child. Picking a good one is key! Watermelon does not ripen after harvest so it is important to look for a bright skin. You should also look for a cream colored area on its “belly” where it sat on the ground. You can also thump it and listen for a hollow sound. For me, this is the best indicator of ripeness. I’m far from an expert and hate when I pick wrong. Too pale, and there is no flavor at all. Too ripe, and it feels like gritty mush in your mouth. I learned how to look for one that when cut open would be deep red and dripping with juice. Messy, yes…but, well worth it!
When I was a child, we used to have watermelon seed spitting contests amongst the younger relatives. I went on vacation with my grandmother when I was about 10 or 11. It was me, Jami, and a friend of hers. We went to Ohio and have lots of crazy tales for another day. We stopped to visit my Great Aunt on the way home. She lived in Lake City, Florida. We had been in the car for a long time and were a little antsy. The adults gave us some watermelon and sent us outside. In hindsight, this was to get us out of their hair!
We went outside to eat watermelon and our cousin, who was 15, joined us. We decided to have a seed spitting contest. I’m actually pretty good at sending them a good way, but I wasn’t really a match for a 15 year old. Somehow, the game began to evolve into spitting seeds at each other. The sun was beginning to set and we were barefoot, running through the sand and grass, spitting seeds at each other. The 15 year old had an unfair advantage of this being his home. We lost him somewhere in the twilight, until chunks of watermelon began raining down from the sky. Following the arc of the projectiles, we could just make out that he was high on a branch in the giant oak tree. We declared this an unfair advantage as we were not tall enough to grab the lower branches. We decided to join forces, the three of us sending chunks of watermelon high into the sky hoping that one would connect with him. He scrambled out of the tree and we scurried after him, a trio on a mission. We were filled with such exuberant joy at the freedom of being a child on the run. We were filled with a hidden satisfaction that we were deemed cool enough by the 15 year old for him to join in on our escapades. In the end, our hair was sticky and matted and dirt covered our feet from running through the dusty sand. The adults laughed as they took in the messy sight and it was a wonderful end to a magnificent day.
My kids have always liked to eat watermelon in hand held pieces, cut from the rind. Over time, I found a method that made it most efficient for me. I quarter the watermelon. Then, I make slices through the quarter.
After this, I slice lengthwise through the peak (hence the large knife)
Then, I am able to slice the watermelon along the bottom to release it from the rind (by the way, I’m a lefty if the knife direction seems strange to anyone)
And then I can just slide it off the rind and into a bowl. I try to always keep some in the fridge for the kids and their friends to grab after a day in the hot sun.
What are some things that signal the beginning of summer for you?
Let your light shine!