ALABAMA A&M and AUBURN UNIVERSITIES
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contact Donna Reynolds, Extension Assistant Editor
AUBURN, JULY 10---One great joy of summer is biting into a juicy piece of watermelon. Summer is not really here until watermelons are in the isles of the grocery stores or when pick- your-own watermelon signs sprout along the roads.
Watermelons differ by the fruit shape, rind pattern, flesh color and the presence of seed, says Eric Simonne, Extension horticultrist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The four main groups of watermelons are icebox, Crimson sweet, jubilee and allsweet.
Icebox melons are round and weigh 8-12 pounds each. They are popular because they're small enough to fit in an icebox. This makes them a picnic favorite for a small number of guests. Crimson sweet melons are also round, but weigh 15-20 pounds. Their rind pattern shows dark green stripes on a light-green background.
Jubilee and allsweet melons are both elongated, and weigh 18-25 pounds each. The rind of Jubilee-type melons is light green with dark-green stripes.
Allsweet melons are dark green with small light green stripes.
Flesh color is another important characteristic of watermelons, says Simonne. Traditionally, watermelon flesh is red. However, several varieties such as 'AU Golden Producer' (Crimson sweet) and 'Desert King' (jubilee) have yellow flesh. There is no major difference in taste between the red and yellow flesh. Many people prefer red-fleshed melons because they are the more familiar color. Try eating a yellow-fleshed watermelon. It's a new experience worth trying.
Seeds also are part of the watermelon fruit. But watermelon lovers like the seeds only for spitting contests, Simonne says. Seedless watermelon are virtually seedless, and their popularity is increasing rapidly. Every now a then, you find a brown seed, and several immature, white seeds. These immature seeds look much like the seeds found in yellow summer squash or cucumbers. The immature seeds in seedless watermelon, seldom develop into mature, brown seeds.
Nutritional quality of all types of watermelons is similar. Watermelons are 90-95 percent water. They're low in calories and contain no cholesterol. Sweetness ranges between 12-15 percent.
Watermelons with sugar contents less than 10 percent have a watery, unpleasant taste, adds Simonne. To enhance flavor, sprinkle a little table salt (sodium chloride) onto the watermelon flesh. Salt acts as a taste enhancer, and may increase your pleasure while eating.
What's the best way to eat watermelon? By hand, of course. That's the favorite way. Many watermelon products and ways to process watermelon are now being marketed. Retail stores are offering watermelon quarters, fruit trays and arrangements with watermelon balls.
Other food items containing watermelon include watermelon margaritas, watermelon salsa and dip, and watermelon barbecue sauce. Even watermelon-flavored gum has been tried!