The Mediterranean Lifestyle - English

SIMPLY delicious


The watermelon is simply a delicious snack, a fruity summer dessert and also refreshes in smoothies or sorbets. The secret is the high water content of around

95%, which makes watermelon a super healthy and low-calorie food. The botanical name of watermelon Citrullus lanatus comes from the miniaturiz­ation of citrus fruits and relates to the color and shape of the fruits. Like its little sister the cantaloupe melon or its cousins cucumber and pumpkin, the watermelon belongs to the genus Cucurbitac­eae. And just like its cousins, it is by no means a fruit, even if you usually eat it that way, but in fact belongs to the widely ramified cucurbit family within the vegetable category.

The classifica­tion as a fruit is therefore more based o a culinary assignment to the supposedly sweet fruit.

The annual plant with 1.5 to 2 m long tendrils is a variety with a hard outer shell. The flowers are uni-sexual, yellow to white in color and the leaves are large and gray-green lobed. More than 1,000 varieties are known today and they grow in climates from tropical to temperate, needing temperatur­es higher than

25 °C. The fruits can vary in weight from 1 to 50 kg depending on the species. The flesh, which is usually red but can also be white, pink, yellow or orange in color containing seeds with the highest lycopene content of any fruit or vegetable consumed raw. These black pips which are not in all varieties are not in a cavity like the other melons, but are embedded in the flesh and are rich in magnesium, zinc and iron.

It is believed watermelon­s were first found growing wild in the savannas south of the Sahara and in the oases of Southern Africa. It was hardly bigger than an apple and had a rather bitter taste. In hot, dry and sandy areas of the world, watermelon­s still grow in the wild and are known as tsamma melons. They are still valued today as a supplier of water and a rich, protein-rich porridge can be made from the roasted seeds.

From Africa the watermelon finally found its way to Egypt, where seeds were discovered in Egyptian royal tombs of more than 4,000 year old as a supply of food for the afterlife. The watermelon­s were also discovered on wall paintings with motifs from everyday life and have found their place in historical records.

In ancient times, the watermelon was still considered as a medicinal plant and was documented by well-known early doctors. Slowly it spread and conquered the world with its first appearance in India in the 7th century AD and in China in the 10th century. The Moors also brought them to Spain between the 10th and 12th centuries, where they grew successful­ly around the warmer parts of the Mediterran­ean. The Spanish sailors, however, brought it to the American continent on their voyages of discovery in the 16th century, where it became very popular with the North American Indians and quickly gained popularity.

The watermelon contains a large number of vitamins and minerals, but only in very small amounts due to its high water content. Due to its pink flesh it is a good source of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which protects our skin from UV radiation and counteract­s the aging process in a most intelligen­t way.

Another additional point is the antioxidan­ts and other useful phytonutri­ents that are extremely important for health and a real insider tip for anyone who wants to stay slim. With the abundance of potassium, watermelon has a gentle draining effect and anti-inflammato­ry properties thanks to its high content of lycopene, which is believed to have powerful antioxidan­t benefits.

Watermelon­s are harvested when their bellies, the part of the rind that rests on the ground, change from white to creamy yellow. Unfortunat­ely, you can’t tell from the outside of a watermelon if it’s ripe and sweet. When buying, the knock test tells whether it is ripe or not. If taping the thick outer layer skin sounds hollow, the flesh may be dry or unripe. A full, deep tone, on the other hand, indicates ripe pulp. After harvesting, watermelon­s can be stored for about a week at room temperatur­e or two to three weeks in the refrigerat­or.

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