SECOND SLICE: WHY DON’T PEOPLE CARVE WATERMELONS FOR HALLOWEEN?

October 17th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI love watermelon, which is why I have to ask the important question: Why don’t people carve watermelons at Halloween?

The answer might lie in the history of pumpkin carving. According to Wikipedia, the practice of carving jack-o’-lanterns (which aren’t always made from pumpkins) dates back to early 1800s Ireland. Interestingly, the Irish carved turnips and swedes (rutabagas, not people from Sweden), lit them up with a lump of burning coal, and placed them on their doorsteps to welcome deceased loved ones and ward off evil spirits.

It wasn’t until the practice was adopted in North America sometime in the mid-1800s that pumpkins were used, mainly because they were more readily available than turnips and also easier to carve. That last part (about pumpkins being readily available and easier to carve) might be the key to solving this mystery.

Pumpkins are traditionally harvested in September and October, just in time for Halloween. That fact alone is probably a big reason why pumpkins (and not watermelons, which are more widely available in the summer) are used for the fall celebration.

“Easier to carve” is another clue. While watermelon isn’t all that difficult to carve — in fact, its rind is actually easier to slice through than the harder-shelled pumpkin — the pumpkin is much more hollow than a watermelon, giving it a slight edge in the “easy to carve” category. The aforementioned hard shell of the pumpkin probably also helps it maintain its carved shape longer than a watermelon would.

I should also point out that pumpkins, with their relatively flat base, are able to sit upright when carved, while many watermelons tend to have a mind of their own when placed on a flat surface. Anyone who’s had a watermelon roll off their kitchen counter to meet its untimely demise on the floor knows that all too well.

For the final word on this topic, I turned to Hugh McMahon, a professional pumpkin carver I interviewed previously on the blog. Hugh has carved pumpkins and watermelons into hundreds (if not thousands) of amazing things and could definitely shed some light on why people prefer pumpkins over watermelon — at least for carving.

“Pumpkins are less messy, which makes them a little easier to work with than watermelons,” said McMahon. He also pointed to the pumpkin’s position as a fall harvest symbol as a reason for its stranglehold on Halloween but didn’t rule out the use of watermelon in the fall and winter months. McMahon has carved watermelons for tropical-themed fall events, including a series of watermelons for Bette Midler’s annual “Hulaween” party fundraiser.

“Occasionally, I break the rules for fun,” added McMahon.

I propose that we all break the rules a little bit this year and save a pumpkin by carving a watermelon or two. Watermelon is a lot tastier than pumpkin pulp, and a lot easier to carve than a turnip, that’s for sure.

UP NEXT: My crazy Halloween idea

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WHAT SHOULD MY 2015 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION BE?

October 15th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picIt might be strange to talk about New Year’s resolutions in October — and it kind of is — but I like to plan ahead, so here goes. My resolutions over the past three years have been mixed in terms of success. If I had to rank them on a scale of most successful to least successful, it would be as follows:

1. Compete in a watermelon-eating contest (2014)

2. Compete in a watermelon seed-spitting contest (2012)

3. Grow my own watermelon (2013)

The eating contest and spitting contest were generally successful, even though I didn’t win either event. Growing my own watermelon was a fun and valuable experience, but the end result (an inedible baseball-sized watermelon) was a little disappointing.

And so, I turn my attention to 2015. What will my next watermelon-related conquest be? I’m not really sure. I’ve got a few ideas, but I’d really like your input. Leave a comment with your own thoughts on what watermelon goals I should tackle next year.

If I choose your idea, you’ll not only get to enjoy monthly blog entry updates here on What About Watermelon, but I’ll also send you personal emails throughout the year, with even more behind-the-scenes updates. Don’t worry — you can unsubscribe from those emails after the first two or three.

UP NEXT: Why don’t people carve watermelons for Halloween?

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ASK THE EXPERTS: THE CASE OF THE HAUNTED WATERMELON

October 14th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Halloween is upon us, so I’ve decided to post this bizarre Q&A about a mysterious exploding watermelon. For optimal effect, read it with the lights off and a watermelon lurking in the next room.

ED ASKS: I had a watermelon sitting on the kitchen table when all of a sudden it split and began to squirt its juices as far as seven feet. What would cause this?

picWow. That sounds pretty bizarre, Ed. So bizarre, in fact, that if I found myself in that situation, I’m not sure if I would find it funny or if I would run screaming into the other room.

I’ve heard of watermelons splitting open and spewing juices and/or foam before. I’ve even heard of watermelons “exploding.” For some reason, whenever I read stories about watermelons doing these types of things, I get the same feeling inside that I do when I read stories about encounters with ghosts.

For an answer to your seemingly supernatural question, I turned to an expert in weird watermelon occurrences, Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie. She’s a plant physiologist and professor who’s pretty much seen it all when it comes to the strange things that fruits and vegetables do.

A breeder once described a scenario in which visitors were so enamored with these cute little watermelons that they loaded up the station wagon, only to have them explode (and I do mean explode!) all over the car.

Watermelon splitting (or exploding) can be caused by the “exploding gene,” which is found in many of the heirloom varieties, or from increased water turgor in the watermelon. Sometimes just placing the fruit on a surface, bumping it, or touching it with a knife will cause an immediate pop on the side.

Of course, the other reason watermelons can split is because of bacterial infections inside the watermelon. Like many fruits, watermelon are susceptible to certain decay organisms and wild yeast. When this happens, it can lead to a fermentation process inside the watermelon. Pressure can build inside, causing the watermelon to split and erupt like a volcano or to foam uncontrollably.

So there you have it, Ed. You’ve either got a watermelon with an “exploding gene” or a bacterial infection. I asked Dr. Penny if ghosts could somehow be responsible for your watermelon’s bizarre behavior, and she stood by her previous answer. I’m not saying your watermelon was haunted, but I feel compelled to offer that as a possible explanation.

UP NEXT: What should my 2015 New Year’s resolution be?

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RECIPE: HOW TO RECYCLE A MINI WATERMELON RIND IN A DELICIOUS WAY

October 10th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

You know what’s nice about those mini watermelons? They’re not only the perfect size for an individual snack (or two), but they also make very handy bowls. I proved that recently when I hollowed out two halves of a mini watermelon to create a very tasty and unforgettable dessert.

It’s a dessert I call “Jell-O in a Mini Watermelon Bowl.” Yeah, it’s not the most creative name, but it’s descriptive, and that’s all that matters.

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Obviously, you’ll need to start with a mini watermelon, because you can’t make Jell-O in a Mini Watermelon Bowl without one. If you don’t have a mini watermelon, go ahead and buy one or grow one. If you can’t find a mini watermelon at your local grocery store, go to a different store.

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After you buy or grow your own mini watermelon, you’ll need to cut it in half and hollow it out. When hollowing it out, you can either clean out ALL of the red watermelon flesh (be careful, because mini watermelons have a thin rind), or you can leave some flesh on the rind to add a little extra treat to your dessert.

Next, fill your mini watermelons with prepared Jell-O mixture. You can use any flavor you’d like. For mine, I used (FLAVOR NAME). Oh, and remember that watermelon you scooped out in the last step? Feel free to dice some up and throw it in the mixture. The watermelon will probably settle to the bottom, but that’s okay.

One important note: Your mini watermelons probably won’t sit upright (after all, they are round on the bottom). To fix that, you can use a short glass or small bowl as a base for your mini watermelon bowls.

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After a few hours in the fridge, your Jell-O in a Mini Watermelon is ready to eat! Before digging in, go ahead and add a little whipped cream and maybe sprinkle some diced watermelon on top.

As for what you’ll do with your mini watermelon bowls when you’re done with your dessert, that’s up to you. I used mine for a cereal bowl the next morning. It worked pretty well, but I did learn later on that the mini watermelon bowls are NOT dishwasher safe.

UP NEXT: The case of the haunted watermelon

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HOW TO CARVE: A JACK-O-MELON BAT!

October 7th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that this will be my last watermelon carving of the season. Maybe. The absence of full-sized watermelon in grocery stores during the fall and winter makes carvings a little challenging. Sure, I can still use the mini watermelons that are stocked year round – and I may do that if I’m feeling particularly inspired – but I also like to take a little time off from carving to recharge my inspirational batteries and sharpen my knives.

And now, on with the final carving of the season.

Halloween is only a month away, which means a lot of folks will be slicing and dicing pumpkins in about two weeks. That’s fine, of course, but my challenge to you is to think outside the gourd by carving a watermelon instead. This funny little jack-o-melon bat will do exactly that. Bonus: If you can’t find regular-sized watermelons in your store, the mini watermelons will do just fine!

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Start your watermelon bat with two small or mini watermelons. As always, make sure you give them a good cleaning before the cutting begins.

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Next, you’ll need to cut off the top — just like you would with a pumpkin — but add two little bat ears. With the top removed (no need to keep the top), scoop out the watermelon flesh inside.

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To create your bat wings, hollow out the second watermelon and carve two pieces of the rind into shapes that resemble something a bat might like to have as wings. Leave one side of each wing flat. This is the side that will be stuck to your bat body in the final step.

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Using two toothpicks on each side, stick your wings on your bat body and then you’re done! You can put a little candle in your bat to give him a spooky glow or use him as a serving dish by lining him with plastic wrap and filling him up with fruit.

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ANYONE UP FOR A GAME OF WATERMELON DODGEBALL?

October 3rd, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

If you’ve ever played dodgeball (or saw the very funny movie by the same name), you know that it’s a sport that can get a little rough at times. I know this firsthand. I spent most of my adolescent years dreading “dodgeball day” in gym class. After the fourth or fifth red rubber ball to the face, you begin to wonder what lessons — if any — are being learned from the game.

So, it’s a little strange that I excitedly joined a dodgeball league (yes, there are leagues for dodgeball) a few years ago with some friends from work. We were terrible. The worst team in the league by a mile. We didn’t win a single game, but we probably had the most fun, mainly because we didn’t really care if we won or lost. In retrospect, maybe that was the lesson my gym teacher was trying to teach us in the 8th grade, although I doubt it.

All of those dodgeball memories, both good and bad, came back to me recently when a friend forwarded me a link to a very funny video/song called “Watermelon Dodgeball.” That’s right, dodgeball with watermelons. Check it out below.

If you thought regular dodgeball was painful, just wait until you’ve played it with a 15-pound fruit being hurled at your head.

NOTE: The idea of playing dodgeball with a watermelon and the video below aren’t meant to be taken seriously. DO NOT play dodgeball with a watermelon. You could get hurt and, worst of all, you’d ruin several perfectly good watermelons!

UP NEXT: How to carve a Jack-O-Melon bat!

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OCTOBER PRIZE: WOULD YOU WEAR THESE WATERMELON SOCKS?

October 1st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI’ve given away socks as a prize here on the blog in the past, but they were very pink, very low and very much a prize for women. This month’s prize is also socks (that’s them on the right), but they’re more gender-neutral, which makes them a great gift for men and women alike!

I used to wear colorful socks, but nowadays I’m more of a plain old brown and black socks kind of guy. I’ve even been known to wear socks with a hole in the toe while wearing flip flops for quick trips to the grocery store to pick up some bread and milk. Was it a major fashion faux pas and a little embarrassing? You bet. But was it convenient? Definitely.

After discovering these socks, however, I’m seriously considering an overhaul of my sock drawer. After all, they say adding a color to your footwear is one of the easiest ways to inject some style and personality into your wardrobe, and my subdued closet could certainly use a little personality.

These watermelon socks ($11 on Amazon) are made by Ashi Dashi Sock Co., a company known for its outrageous designs when it comes to foot accessories. They also make socks that look like corn, socks that look like bacon, and socks that look like hot dogs. Some of those designs might be a little too “out there” for my conservative tastes, but these watermelon socks are the perfect balance of crazy and sensible.

If you’re the same way (or you know someone who is), leave a comment on this entry or any entry this month, and I’ll choose one comment at random to win these socks. At the very least, you can wear them around the house this winter to keep your toes warm!

UP NEXT: Watermelon dodgeball?

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RECIPE: ROASTED PORK LOIN AND WATERMELON SANDWICH

September 29th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picHave you ever put a slice of watermelon on a sandwich or burger? If not, you definitely should. Just a thin slice – maybe a quarter of an inch thick – right there on top. It pretty much takes the place of the tomato, but with a little extra sweetness.

Today’s recipe does exactly that, but the watermelon slice is dusted with chili powder. Combine that with the honey mustard, and it takes the sweet watermelon in a whole new and exciting direction. By the way, you can do the chili powder-dusted watermelon slice trick with just about any sandwich. Except maybe peanut butter and jelly. Actually, a PB&J with a slice of chili watermelon might not be half bad!

ROASTED PORK LOIN AND WATERMELON SANDWICH

INGREDIENTS

1 poppy seed or Kaiser roll, split
Dash of honey mustard (to taste)
6 ounces thinly sliced roasted pork loin
1 3/4 inch thick slice of watermelon, about the size of the roll
1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
2 ounces fresh baby greens

INSTRUCTIONS

Spread honey mustard liberally over the inside of the roll and layer the pork over the bottom piece. Sprinkle the watermelon with chili powder and place over the pork. Top the watermelon with the greens and cover with the roll top, mustard-side down.

For more recipes using watermelon, check out the “Recipes” section of the National Watermelon Promotion Board website.

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YEP, FALL HAS OFFICIALLY ARRIVED

September 24th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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What are some signs that fall has arrived? Obviously, the calendar is a good indication. Yesterday marked the first official day of fall, which means that the greatest season of the year is officially over, and the third greatest season has begun.

The temperature dropping a bit, the leaves changing colors, and long-sleeved shirts making an appearance are also good autumnal cues. For watermelon lovers, another dead giveaway that fall is upon us is the disappearance of the big cardboard bin of watermelons from your local grocery store. Or, if you’re like the store in the photo above, you just fill the empty watermelon bin up with pumpkins. (Feel to leave a comment with your best caption for this photo.)

I don’t know about you, but seeing a watermelon bin filled with pumpkins is a little painful. It’s kind of like the pumpkins are saying, “Ha ha, watermelon! Your season is over! Why don’t you go hang out in that section of the produce aisle under the bagged salad while we take over your summer apartment here at the front of the store?”

Of course, it’s not like watermelon completely disappears in the fall and winter. Like Pumpkin pointed about above, it can still be found, but it just doesn’t have the real estate it used to. Which is more than you can say for pumpkins. Have you ever seen a pumpkin in the grocery store in July? Exactly.

UP NEXT: A recipe for a sandwich you’ll definitely want to try

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MY ATTEMPT AT MAKING WATERMELON JERKY

September 23rd, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Have you noticed that as you get older, your Christmas gifts tend to get less and less memorable? Oh, sure, there are a few standouts from adulthood, like in 2001 when I received my very first MP3 player (which held a whopping total of 30 songs!).

Last Christmas featured another highlight, when my wife bought me a dehydrator. As a fan of beef jerky and dried fruit, I had been wanting a dehydrator for a long time, and unwrapping that gift gave me thrill that I hadn’t felt on Christmas morning in a long time.

Since then, I’ve used it countless times to dry out various meats, but I’ve yet to use it to dry fruit – until recently.

This past weekend featured my first attempt at creating watermelon jerky, and the results were surprisingly good. Then again, most things you place in a dehydrator tend to come out pretty good. The reason has a lot to do with the dehydrating process itself. In short, it’s a slow cooking process that removes almost all of the moisture from the food item. The result is a shriveled version of the original but with a condensed flavor.

Here’s a recap of my weekend watermelon jerky experience:

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I started with a few dozen pieces of watermelon, which were cut about a half to a quarter of an inch thick. Like anything you put in the dehydrator, you want it to be sliced relatively thin. Slice it too thick, and it’ll never dry out, or it’ll be too tough and chewy. Slice it too thin, and it’ll dry quickly and be too brittle.

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Unlike beef jerky, which requires you to marinate the meat for several hours, watermelon jerky requires almost no preparation. Some folks add a little salt to their watermelon slices prior to drying them, so I sprinkled a little salt on half of my watermelon pieces. The other slices were dried without salt, just as Mother Nature had intended them.

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After setting the dehydrator to 135 degrees, all that was left to do was sit back and wait. Beef jerky takes about 6-8 hours, depending upon how thick the beef is sliced. Since this was my first time making watermelon jerky, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I decided to monitor the progress closely – peeking in every few hours – to make sure I stopped the dehydrating process at just the right time.

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The wait was agonizing and took WAY longer than I thought it would (about 20 hours total), but the result was well worth it! The watermelon jerky was super sweet, chewy and tasted almost like watermelon candy. I’ve already started planning my next attempt at watermelon jerky, which I might create with the help of various savory marinades. Stay tuned!

UP NEXT: A funny photo that proves that fall has definitely arrived

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