THE 2014 WATERMELON FESTIVAL CALENDAR (WHICH ONE WILL YOU ATTEND?)

April 17th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picAnother spring and summer is upon us, which means it’s watermelon festival season. As I do every year, I’ve taken the liberty of assembling a short list of some of the more notable, watermelon-related festivals below.

Check out the “Festivals” page of the National Watermelon Promotion Board website for a much longer listing of watermelon festivals and watermelon days (nearly 40 events in all!). If you’re headed to a watermelon festival this year, send a few photos my way (watermelonexperts@gmail.com) and I’ll post them here on What About Watermelon!

Truth be told, I’ve never actually been to a watermelon festival. It’s a shame, right? I mean, here I am, The Watermelon Guy, and I’ve never been to a festival devoted to watermelon. I blame it on geography. As you can see from the list below, most watermelon festivals take place in the south and, well, I’m not lucky enough to live in the South. I’ll get to one someday, though.

HAMPTON COUNTY WATERMELON FESTIVAL (June 14-22)

LOCATION: Hampton, South Carolina

HIGHLIGHTS: Melon Miss & Master Pageant, watermelon-eating contest, watermelon-growing contest, parade

LULING WATERMELON THUMP (June 26-29)

LOCATION: Luling, Texas

HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon contest, coronation of watermelon queen, watermelon-eating contest, champion watermelon auction, world championship watermelon seed-spitting contest

PANHANDLE WATERMELON FESTIVAL (June 28-29)

LOCATION: Chipley, Florida

HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon beauty pageant, biggest watermelon contest and auction, watermelon seed-spitting contest, live music

PAGELAND WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 18-19)

LOCATION: Pageland, South Carolina
HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon seed-spitting contest, watermelon-eating contest.

MISSISSIPPI WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 18-19)

LOCATION: Mize, Mississippi
HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon seed-spitting contest, watermelon-eating contest, greased watermelon race

LOUISIANA WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 25-26)

LOCATION: Farmerville, Louisiana

HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon seed-spitting contest, largest watermelon contest, watermelon decorating, watermelon hunt, watermelon auction, watermelon quality and tasting competition, arm wrestling contest

HOPE WATERMELON FESTIVAL (August 7-9)

LOCATION: Hope, Arkansas

HIGHLIGHTS: Watermelon Olympics (with a watermelon toss, among other events), a seed-spitting contest, “Watermelon Idol” talent show, watermelon-eating contest

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RECIPE: WATERMELON RIND, CARROT AND PINEAPPLE SLAW

April 12th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picIt’s no secret that watermelon is my favorite fruit (after all, I am “The Watermelon Guy”), but if I had to choose a second favorite, it would definitely be pineapple. So sweet, so juicy, so flavorful. Now that I think about it, those are the same reasons I love watermelon!

Pineapple and watermelon are two of the three key ingredients in today’s recipe – Watermelon Rind, Carrot and Pineapple Slaw. The nice thing about this slaw is that it makes use of the watermelon rind, which is often tossed in the trash. But, like we’ve talked about before here on What About Watermelon, the rind is actually quite useful and packed with nutrients!

This slaw is made with fat-free Greek yogurt and low-fat sour cream, which means it’s a little better for you than regular slaw. As for what you serve it with, that’s up to you, but I plan to serve mine with some grilled burgers. What will you serve yours with?

Watermelon rind, carrot and pineapple slaw

INGREDIENTS

Dressing

1/4 cup fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 1 /2 Tablespoons stone-ground mustard
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Slaw

4 cups grated watermelon rind with fruit and green peel removed
1 cup grated carrot
1 1 /2 cup diced fresh pineapple

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small bowl, blend dressing thoroughly and set aside. Place watermelon rind on several layers of paper towels to soak up excess fluid. In a medium-sized bowl, place dressing, rind, carrot and pineapple and toss to thoroughly coat. Serve.

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SECOND SLICE: HOW LONG WILL MY WATERMELON LAST?

April 8th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Even though it doesn’t happen often that I have “extra” watermelon lying around in my fridge for more than a few days (it usually disappears pretty quickly), it does happen from time to time. If it happens to you, today’s “Second Slice” expertise from Chef Harry should come in handy.

DAVID S. ASKS: We recently hosted a large family picnic and we bought a little too much watermelon. Now I’ve got watermelon in my fridge, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’m wondering… how long will it last?

picGreat question, David. First of all, there’s no such thing as “too much watermelon.” Second, there are so many things you can do with those leftovers, but that’s a subject for another day.

To answer your question, if the watermelon has already been cut, it should be okay in the fridge for three or four days. While it’s in there, keep it in a container (if it’s cubed) or place plastic wrap over the exposed edge. If the watermelon is whole, you’ve got a bit more time – anywhere from 7 to 10 days – to figure out what you’ll make with your leftovers.

Here’s the kicker: Researchers have found that whole watermelons stored outside the fridge in a cool, dark place (around 55 or 60 degrees) last much longer than watermelons stored in the fridge (around 41 degrees). So, if you’ve already got a whole watermelon in the fridge, you should keep it there. But if you’re storing it outside the fridge, put it in the fridge about three hours before you plan to eat it in order to cool it down to just the right temperature.

As for your leftovers, two of my favorite things to do with excess watermelon are cutting it into chunks for use with other fruits in yogurt smoothies, or pureeing the watermelon and freezing it in an ice cube tray to make watermelon ice cubes for drinks!

Enjoy!
Chef Harry

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APRIL PRIZE: WHAT WOULD YOU FILL THIS WATERMELON TUMBLER WITH?

April 3rd, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picLately, the prizes here on the watermelon blog have focused on drinks (watermelon water in January and watermelon-flavored drops in February). I’ve decided to continue the trend with our April prize – the watermelon tumbler you see on the right.

Amazon describes the 16-ounce tumbler as “great for hot or cold drinks” and notes that you can use it for “everything from smoothies to hot coffee drinks.” The tumbler is made of durable BPA-free acrylic and has double wall insulation so your drink will stay cooler or hotter longer. The double wall insulation also prevents condensation, which is also nice.

I personally don’t use a lot of tumblers – I’m more of a whatever-cup-I-can-get-my-hands-on kind of guy – but I’d definitely put this one to good use. I’d fill it with iced coffee and iced tea. Pretty much anything icy. I’d experiment with hot beverages, too, but that might be tricky with the straw.

To be entered to win this hand vessel, leave a comment below with what you’d fill this watermelon tumbler with. I’ll choose one comment at random from all the comments left on the blog this month as the winner. Good luck!

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IT’S AN APPLE, IT’S A WATERMELON, IT’S AN…APPLEMELON?

April 1st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Hybrid fruits are nothing new. For example, the “nectaplum” is a cross between a nectarine and a plum. What you end up with is a fruit with “unparalleled flavor” that tastes like a nectarine, peach and plum all mixed into one delicious package. Hybrid fruits are also hard to create, which is what’s so amazing about today’s announcement.

For the past four years, botanical scientists in Georgia have been working on something that, until now, has been a closely guarded secret. But now that product is bearing fruit…literally. It’s called the “applemelon,” and it’s a cross between an apple and a watermelon.

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The applemelon (or waterapple, as some have dubbed it) was created by merging the popular Crimson Sweet watermelon with a Honeycrisp apple. How they accomplished the feat is pretty technical and would require its own blog entry, but the result is a watermelon that grows on a tree with an interior that’s crisp and sweet (like an apple), and tastes like a watermelon.

“The most challenging part of the process was developing a hybrid that created a tree strong enough to sustain the weight of full-grown watermelons without breaking,” said one botanist close to the project. “We were also careful when it came to the taste of fruit, creating a finished product that brought out the best characteristics of both the apple and the watermelon.”

picThe applemelon tree – of which there are reportedly at least a dozen growing in an undisclosed orchard in Georgia – is capable of producing as many as 30 fruits at a time. The benefit, of course, is that more applemelon can be grown per square acre than standard watermelon. The fact that the fruit is grown in a tree also means that the fruit is protected from animals, certain insects and other risks associated with ground-level, vine-grown produce.

“This is a real breakthrough, no doubt about it,” said the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s resident watermelon farmer and shipping expert, Josh Bailey. “It won’t replace the watermelon or the apple, but it’ll definitely provide a fun and interesting option for fans of both fruits.”

Bailey, of course, is one of the lucky few who have tasted the applemelon. For now, fans like yours truly will have to wait until the applemelon is grown on a larger scale and shipped to stores nationwide. No word on when that will happen, but hopefully very soon!

(In case you didn’t figure it out from the date of this post, this is an April Fool’s joke. Unfortunately, that means the applemelon isn’t real … at least for now!)

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BEHIND-THE-SCENES AT THE ANNUAL WATERMELON QUEEN TRAINING DAY

March 31st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

queens 1

The National Watermelon Association recently crowned its new National Watermelon Queen (stay tuned for an interview in an upcoming blog entry), but did you know that there are eight additional queens? The “extra” queens represent each of the watermelon-producing states and regions and join the National Watermelon Queen in helping to promote watermelon at events throughout the nation.

It’s no easy task, either. As told by The Produce News in an article about the demands of being a watermelon queen, “the queens can turn up anywhere during their 12-month reign – trade shows, fairs, schools, corporate events, in grocery stores doing watermelon promotions and even on Capitol Hill helping industry lobbyists carry their concerns to member of Congress.”

To help them make the most of the demands of their new position, the queens came together this past weekend in Orlando for one day of rather intense training (but also lots of fun). The training includes lessons on being a media liaison, in-store appearances, recipe demos, appearance, and etiquette to name a few.

queens 2

During the media training session, all queens participated in mock interviews in various scenarios from TV interviews to in-store appearances.

queens3

NWPB Director of PR & Social Media interviews the North Carolina Watermelon Queen

queens4

NWPB Staff also educated them on all of the resources available to them for any promotion they may have throughout the year.

queens5

All queens learned how to demonstrate the fire & ice salsa recipe … and also how delicious it is!

 

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HOW TO CARVE: A WATERMELON OWL

March 30th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Like any craft involving skill, watermelon carvings range from the extremely simple to the extremely difficult. My level of carving talent isn’t suitable for extremely difficult attempts (I may try it, but it won’t look great), but that’s okay because today’s carving is toward the simple end of the spectrum.

This watermelon owl doubles as a fruit basket (his backside is filled with fruit!) and his eyes are made out of cookies. Of course, I had to buy a whole package of cream-filled cookies just to get the two cookies I needed to make the eyes. I considered filling the back of the owl with milk and giving the cookies a dunk. I didn’t do it, but now I’m thinking that I really should have!

MATERIALS NEEDED

1 round or oval shaped watermelon
Kitchen & paring knives
Cutting board
Green dry erase marker
Large bowl & spoon
Channel knife
Chocolate wafer cookies (minis & regular sized)
Toothpicks
Fall fruits to make the fruit salad for filling

owl 1

Start by giving your watermelon a thorough cleaning. Because the last thing you want is a dirty owl!

owl 2

On a cutting board, place the watermelon on its side and cut off 1/4″-1/2″ from the stem end, being careful not to cut too deep into the white part of the rind. This will provide a sturdy base. Then, pick out the best looking side of the watermelon to make the front of your owl. On the opposite side, cut away the top quarter and hollow out the inside of the watermelon using a spoon. Save the removed fruit to use for your fruit salad.

owl 3

Create two feet, a nose and an eyebrow using the quarter second of rind removed in the previous step.

owl 4

Use the channel knife to make a pattern for the stomach of the owl to resemble feathers. Use the full-sized chocolate wafer cookies and mini chocolate wafer cookies for the eyes. (Separate the two halves of the full-sized cookies and attach them, cream side facing out, using toothpicks. Then cover the toothpick tip with half of a mini cookie.)

owl 5

Attach the eyebrow, eyes, nose and feet with toothpicks. Then, fill the owl with fruit salad! Or fill it with milk and have a cookie-dunking party. It’s really up to you!

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RECIPE: GRILLED CHEESE WITH WATERMELON AND ARUGULA

March 25th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picIs there anything better on a lazy Sunday afternoon than a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup? I don’t think there is, which is why I was excited to make this recipe. The only thing is, I couldn’t wait for a lazy Sunday, so I made it on a moderately-busy Saturday. Guess what? Whether you have it on a Saturday, a Sunday or on a Tuesday for breakfast, it’s still delicious!

INGREDIENTS

4 slices of watermelon, approximately 4”x4″x ½” thick

8 slices 100% whole grain bread, preferably chewy in texture

2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard (or Dijon mustard)

6 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, divided into 4 equal portions

Cooking spray

1 1/2 cups baby arugula

INSTRUCTIONS

Place watermelon pieces between paper towels to absorb extra fluid and set aside. On each of four slices of bread, spread mustard and top with 1 1 /2 ounces cheese. Top with second slice of bread.

On a griddle, spray cooking spray and grill the sandwiches on each side until cheese begins to melt. Remove from griddle/grill, open, and place a slice of watermelon and arugula. Close sandwich and cut in half.

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WELCOME SPRING! (AND WORLD WATER DAY)

March 21st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to the start of spring. Here we are, about 24 hours into the new season, and I’ve already put winter FAR behind me.

I can appreciate the beauty of a fresh snowfall, but I’m just not a winter person. Plain and simple. I don’t like cold weather and, to add to that disdain, I don’t like wearing jackets (they always seem to be a burden when I reach my destination).

To celebrate the arrival of warm weather (and summer 90 days later!), I whipped up a watermelon and feta salad yesterday and inventoried my stockpile of spring and summer T-shirts.

I should also take a moment to remind everyone that tomorrow is World Water Day. The day is held each year on March 22 to raise awareness about the importance of freshwater globally and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s World Water Day focuses on the connection between water and energy.

Watermelon, of course, is 92 percent water. Although the energy at the heart of this year’s World Water Day is on a much larger level, watermelon, like almost any food, can give you energy on a personal level. Because it’s so high in water content, watermelon is one of the few foods that allows you to “eat your water.”

With that in mind, feel free to celebrate the arrival of spring AND World Water Day with a wedge of watermelon. Or, if you’re feeling particularly celebratory, maybe even some Watermelon Pad Thai.

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION UPDATE: ON YOUR MARK, GET SET …

March 20th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picBy now, you’re all well aware that my New Year’s resolution is to compete in a watermelon-eating contest. In last month’s update, I reviewed a few potential contests in my area and decided that the Bel Air 4th of July Festival in Bel Air, Maryland would be the event at which I would restart my once semi-successful competitive eating career.

That gives me roughly 100 days to get back into “eating shape” and train for the big showdown. Before I start training, however, I need to do a little research to figure out what type of eating contest will be hosted in Bel Air on that warm summer day. When it comes to competitive eating events, there are two types:

1. SPEED – Competitors are given a predetermined number of food items (one dozen chicken wings, six cheeseburgers, half a watermelon) and the first person to finish all of his or her items is the winner. These contests are usually fast and can be over in as little as 30 seconds.

2. QUANTITY – Competitors are given a time limit (usually 8-12 minutes), and the person who eats the largest quantity of the contest food is the winner. These contests are grueling affairs, with many eaters pushing themselves to the limit during the final few minutes. It’s not pretty.

My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach (which isn’t all that big), so speed contests definitely suit me better. From what I can tell, the Bel Air contest is a speed event. I don’t know for sure, but when you have events – like the Bel Air contest –  with hundreds of competitors, giving each person a predetermined amount of food is usually the easiest and most cost-effective contest method.

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Although I haven’t been able to dig up many details about the Bel Air contest (I emailed the contest organizers and am awaiting their response), I was able to uncover the photos above, which were taken during the 2011 event. Curiously, it shows a hoard of competitors crouched down in the grass devouring a nice-sized chunk of melon. Based on those images, the contest appears to be a speed contest, which bodes well for me.

Another good sign is a news article about the 2011 event that notes that the contest was judged by a local Girl Scout troop. I buy a lot of Girl Scout cookies (our local troop calls me “Mr. Ten Boxes of Tagalongs”), so I may have a bit of an advantage with those tough judges.

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