There’s nothing that evokes the feel of summer quite like a cold slice of watermelon. But you’re missing out if that’s the only way you are enjoying this luscious and refreshing treat. From soup to salsa to smoothies, watermelon can be a star ingredient of so many recipes.
Watermelon is particularly satisfying when the weather heats up, says Thi Squire (pictured above), manager of the Grow2Heal Community Garden at Homestead Hospital.
“Watermelon is a great way to stay hydrated in the summer. It’s cool, it’s refreshing and it has just enough sugar to give you a little boost of energy,” said Ms. Squire, who tends a small watermelon patch in the hospital’s organic garden.
True to its name, watermelon is over 90 percent water. At just 44 calories a cup, it packs a surprising nutritional punch. Each juicy bite contains vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as amino acids and antioxidants, including lots of lycopene, which is known to support cardiac health and may help prevent cancer. There’s even a modest amount of potassium, a mineral that contributes to maintaining fluid balance and helps prevent muscle cramps. Potassium helps retain calcium in your body, resulting in stronger bones and joints.
Although watermelon does contain some natural sugar, it’s a smarter choice than many other sugar-laden cold treats that tempt us when temperatures rise, Ms. Squire said.
“If you eat real food, you are consuming anti-inflammatory ingredients and helping your body ward off disease,” Ms. Squire said. “Nature has created such beautiful colors and flavors; we should enjoy them.”
Want some creative ways to work watermelon into you diet? How about watermelon gazpacho, watermelon salad, watermelon salsa, grilled watermelon, watermelon ice pops and watermelon breakfast smoothies? Below are six easy-to-execute recipes, adapted for maximum health and flavor by Baptist Health. Additional recipes are available from the National Watermelon Board .
Watermelon soup? Of course! This quick and super-easy adaptation of the traditional Spanish tomato soup, served cold, showcases watermelon in a savory way. If desired, add cooked shrimp or seafood for a more complete meal.
- 10 cups fresh watermelon, diced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup cucumber, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/3 cup red onion, diced
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of one lemon
- juice of one lime
- 1 jalapeno
- ½ tsp. cumin
- fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
- Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Garnish with a small amount of diced cucumber, tomato, onion and/or cilantro before serving. Makes approximately 10 servings.
SAVORY WATERMELON SALAD
This salad is like summer in a bowl. The sweetness of the melon, tang of the tomatoes, crunch of the cucumber and saltiness of the feta cheese combine to provide so much flavor that you may not even want a salad dressing.
- 2 cups cubed watermelon
- 2 cups salad greens (spring mix, mesclun salad mix, arugula or other favorite)
- 1 tomato (yellow if available) or 1 cup yellow grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup diced cucumber
- ¼ cup diced red onion (optional)
- ½ cup feta cheese
- Cube watermelon flesh into small, bite-size pieces, removing and discarding any seeds.
- Dice the tomato if using whole; if using grape tomatoes, cut in halves. Also, dice onion and cucumber.
- In a large bowl, combine the melon, cucumber, onion, tomato and feta.
- Place a half-cup of greens on a plate. Top with 1 cup of the watermelon mixture. Makes four servings.
- If desired, drizzle fresh lemon juice or a homemade vinaigrette. For ideas on how to make a simple and healthy vinaigrette, see BaptistHealth.org/HealthySalads.
Summer is no time for heavy dips and fat-laden snacks. You want something light and refreshing! This salsa packs a great surprise: diced watermelon that adds fiber and a modicum of sweetness along with your spice. For an additional healthy option, serve with fresh veggies such as slices of zucchini, yellow squash, or cucumber that can act as “chips.”
- 6 cups fresh watermelon, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 red onion, finely diced
- 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
- Juice of one lemon
- Juice of one lime
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Black pepper to taste
- Make sure all items are diced finely.
- Combine all ingredients gently and refrigerate overnight or for at least an hour to allow flavors to marinate. Serves eight.
GRILLED WATERMELON, SPICY THAI-STYLE
Fire up the grill for a spicy and surprising approach to watermelon. Yes, in addition to grilling a wide range of veggies, you can grill watermelon, too. Just be prepared: grilled watermelon is not as sweet as you might expect.
- 1 medium watermelon
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup honey, divided
- 1 Tbs. lime zest
- 2 tsp. garlic chili sauce or Srirachi (available in ethnic food section of grocery store)
- 1 Tbs. fresh chopped cilantro
- Preheat grill to high. If desired, brush lightly with olive oil to avoid sticking.
- In bowl, whisk together lime juice, zest, 3 Tbsp of the honey, and the garlic chili sauce.
- Cut watermelon into 1-inch thick wedges. Lightly drizzle each side with remaining honey and place on grill. Grill until just browned, about 2 minutes per side.
- Place watermelon slices on a plate and drizzle with lime dressing. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.
NOTE: Want to dispense with the Thai spice? Simply brush both sides of watermelon slices with the olive oil and grill over high heat until the melon is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and serve immediately
WATERMELON BREAKFAST SMOOTHIE
You might not normally reach for watermelon for breakfast, but maybe you should. This smoothie is refreshing and satisfying.
- 2 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, frozen
- 5 ounces low-fat sugar-sugar-free greek-style yogurt
- 2 Tbs. instant oatmeal
- 3-4 ice cubes
- Select a yogurt flavor that appeals to you, such as plain, lemon or vanilla. Check label carefully to avoid added sugars.
- If using packaged frozen strawberries, make sure they contain no added sugar. Other berries such as blueberries can work, as well.
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Makes one large serving of approximately 2 ½ cups, or two smaller servings. To “stretch” this recipe, consider adding unsweetened coconut water.
WATERMELON ICE POPS
Although watermelon does contain some natural sugar, it’s a smarter choice than many other sugar-laden cold treats that tempt us when temperatures rise.
- 5 cups diced watermelon
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 Tbs. honey (optional)
- 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger or fresh mint
- Puree the watermelon, honey, lime juice and ginger and/or mint in a blender until smooth.
- Pour the mixture into 10 three-ounce or 8 four-ounce ice-pop molds, dividing evenly. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.