HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

November 26th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a former competitive eater. Which is why it should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s the one day of the year during which everyone can put their diets aside and tap into their inner competitive eater.

Of course, a bountiful feast is only one part of the holiday. The other part is the whole “giving thanks” thing. So, in between bites of turkey and stuffing, try to take some time to reflect on what you’re thankful for this year. I’m thankful for my family, for my health and for the chance to write about something I love (watermelon!) here on this blog.

Leave a comment below with what you’re thankful for this year. While you think about it, here are a few strange Thanksgiving facts for you to chat about around the table this year:

– Did you know that Thanksgiving gets partial credit for the invention of the TV dinner? When the folks at Swanson misjudged the number of turkeys they’d sell in 1953 (they were off by 26 TONS), a member of the company’s team came up with the idea to slice up the extra turkey and repackage it with side dishes in easy-to-prepare frozen meals.

– The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers. We won’t go into details on this one, and it’s probably best NOT to talk about this fact around the dinner table

– Ben Franklin once led an effort to make the turkey our national bird. According to Franklin, the bald eagle had “bad moral character,” while the turkey was a “much more respectable bird.” (More respectable and more delicious!

– Turkey was actually NOT served at the first Thanksgiving feast…at least not that we know of. Pretty much the only things that we do know were on the menu were venison, corn and fish. They did serve various types of fowl, but turkeys were likely not one of them. Oh, and there was no watermelon at the first Thanksgiving, despite what my edits to the photo above might suggest.

UP NEXT: How did people discover that watermelon was good to eat?

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LOVE WATERMELON? YOU’LL LOVE AQUAMELON WATER!

November 24th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

In July, I wrote about Tsamma juice, a watermelon-based drink that aimed to finally put watermelon juice on the fruit juice map. Today, I’m excited to announce yet another refreshing option called AquaMelon Water.

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The drink was created by Desmond Williams, a business administration graduate student at the University of South Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Williams is a runner, who puts wedges of watermelon in his freezer for a post-run snack. That simple idea was the inspiration behind AquaMelon Water.

But Williams also discovered a University of Florida study that gives the drink some very real health benefits. Results from the 2010 study showed the ability of watermelon juice to decrease blood pressure in some people, thanks to the amino acid, citrulline, found in watermelon juice.

With a great idea in place, Williams entered AquaMelon Water in start-up business competitions, with the goal of winning enough money to take the product to production. And, wouldn’t you know it, his idea was a winner! AquaMelon Water won the USF Fintech Business Plan Competition (and a $20,000 prize) and was runner-up at the Florida Venture Forum.

So what’s the future hold for AquaMelon Water? Time will tell, but I really hope to see it on shelves at my local grocery store soon!

UP NEXT: Some Thanksgiving facts you can use to impress your guests

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RECIPE: WATERMELON GRAPE FIZZ

November 21st, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Remember when I posted the first recipe this month and I said breakfast gets lost in the Thanksgiving shuffle? Kids are the same way. They’re at the celebration, usually dining at the little table in the corner, but they’re often overlooked when it comes to the menu. That’s especially true when it comes to the drink menu. Adults have their adult beverages, but kids are usually left to choose from milk, juice or water.

Today’s recipe gives the little tykes something special to sip on. And, if you think this drink can’t be enjoyed by grown-ups, think again. It’s so good, even Uncle Bob might like a glass — especially if you add a splash of whatever he keeps in that flask.

KIDS’ WATERMELON GRAPE FIZZpic

INGREDIENTS

1 cup seedless watermelon puree
1/4 cup grape juice
3/4 cup sparkling water
Crushed ice to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Mix together the watermelon puree and grape juice in an oversized tumbler. Add the sparkling water, then the ice, which causes a nice fizz. Serve immediately.

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

UP NEXT: Good news for Watermelon lovers – AquaMelon Water!

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ONE MORE REASON WHY ASTRONAUTS HAVE THE COOLEST JOB IN THE WORLD

November 18th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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Watermelon is awesome — we all know that. I’ve written in the past about how the Japanese love watermelon so much that they give it away as gifts and display expensive square watermelons in their homes as decorations.

They’re not the only ones who appreciate the gesture of a good watermelon. It’s customary for Russian cosmonauts to also receive watermelon (among other fruits) after missions in outer space. Above is cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev being showered with fruit in September after returning to Earth from a five-and-a-half month space mission.

If it sounds like a pretty underwhelming gift for someone who spent half a year in a weightless environment, you’d be right, but the fruit has practical benefits, too. After six months of dining on rehydrated astronaut food, even something as ordinary as a watermelon can be a pretty awesome treat.

I can relate, too. I’ve never spent six months in outer space, but I did serve in the Navy on board a nuclear submarine. We’d often spend six months or more at sea, and while our dining options were slightly better than an astronaut’s (although that’s debatable), we also didn’t have the luxuries of fresh watermelon during our voyages under the sea.

When we finally returned to our home port, things like a bowl of ice cream, a fast food burger and a slice of watermelon were like a meal in a four-star restaurant. So, welcome back, Mr. Russian Cosmonaut, and enjoy that watermelon!

UP NEXT: A Thanksgiving drink the kids will love

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GOOD LUCK TO THE WATERMELON CAR THIS WEEKEND (AND LEAVE A COMMENT TO WIN A PRIZE!)

November 14th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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I’ve written in the past about professional racecar driver Ross Chastain and his sponsorship by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. I’m happy to announce that Ross has since made the leap from racing on the Florida circuit and raced the Watermelon.org car in his first NASCAR Nationwide Series race earlier this year.

For those who aren’t familiar, the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a step below the big leagues of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which means a Sprint Cup appearance could be next for Ross. His schedule is pretty busy this weekend, because Ross is racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tonight (that’s him and his watermelon truck below) and then jumping into the #10 Watermelon.org Toyota Camry (above) for a NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday.

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While doing a little research about Ross, I found out that many announcers refer to him as “the watermelon guy.” How he earned that nickname is pretty clear (his family actually grew watermelons when he was growing up, too), but that’s also my nickname. It’s okay, though, I’m willing to share the title with him.

From one watermelon guy to another, here’s wishing Ross plenty of good luck in this weekend’s races! Leave a comment to wish Ross some luck of your own. I’ll choose one comment at random to win something signed by Ross. I’m not sure what that something will be, but it’ll be pretty cool!

UP NEXT: Russian astronauts sure do love watermelon

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RECIPE: CARROT, PISTACHIO AND WATERMELON SALAD

November 14th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

Our last recipe offered a tasty alternative to traditionally boring Thanksgiving breakfasts. Today’s recipe is one that might actually make an appearance at the dinner table. Or, if not at the dinner table, maybe it’s something you can whip up as a pre-meal snack for hungry guests!

CARROT, PISTACHIO ANDpic

WATERMELON SALAD

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup blueberry vinegar or 1/4 cup blueberry juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend
1 teaspoon cracked pepper or to taste
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cups shredded carrots
4 cups small-cubed seedless watermelon
1 cup roasted, salted and shelled chopped pistachios

INSTRUCTIONS

Whisk together the blueberry vinegar, Italian herb blend, pepper and honey. Whisk the olive oil into the mixture in a slow stream until thickened. Layer the shredded carrot, watermelon and pistachio nuts in a shallow bowl or deep serving platter. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

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

UP NEXT: We’re rooting for the “Watermelon Guy” of NASCAR (No, it’s not me!)

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ONE OF THE MOST DEDICATED WATERMELON LOVERS IN THE WORLD

November 12th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

I’ve got many years until I even need to think about retirement (although, it sure would be nice to retire tomorrow!), but there are some folks who happily work full-time jobs well into their golden years. And not because they have to, but because they genuinely love what they do and have no interest in giving it up.

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Novalene Slatton is one of those hard-working members of what Tom Brokaw refers to as “The Greatest Generation.” Novalene is 90 years old and has been working at the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce for more than 20 years. Novalene answers phones for the Chamber of Commerce three days a week and says one of her favorite tasks is raising funds for Hope’s annual watermelon festival.

The money she earns from her job is put to good use, too. She contributes to savings accounts for her three grandchildren, each of whom are in college or recently graduated. Said Novalene in a Yahoo! news article about her work, “I just don’t want to stay at home by myself and look at four walls. So many people have retired, and then they say they’re bored to death.”

Keep in mind, Hope, Arkansas is a hotbed of watermelon-growing activity. In fact, the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce website proudly proclaims the region as the “home of the world’s largest watermelons.”

picThat means Novalene knows a thing or two about watermelon, especially because her husband Paul is an accomplished watermelon-grower himself. That’s him and Novalene on the right with some of their impressive crops.

It’s the kind of dedication and determination that we admire in Novalene and that makes her a top choice for one of the most loyal watermelon enthusiasts.

UP NEXT: A Thanksgiving salad like no other

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SECOND SLICE: LOVE WATERMELON? THANK THE BEES!

November 10th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

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To grow a watermelon, you need three key ingredients (besides soil and watermelon seeds, of course): sunlight, water, and bees. The first two necessities should come as no surprise, but the last one might sound a little unusual.

You see, bees buzz from blossom to blossom, picking up pollen and spreading it around throughout the day. They do this in one of two ways: Either by carrying the pollen to another flower themselves or by transferring the pollen to other bees in the hive, who then transport the pollen during their daily routine.

And it’s not just watermelon that bees bring to life. They actually play a role in a third of the foods that we eat! More than 100 agricultural crops in the U.S. are pollinated by bees of all types, including honeybees (the busiest of the bee population), bumblebees and solitary bees.

Some foods can’t exist without the hard work of bees. Watermelon is one of these category four “essential” crops, along with cantaloupe, cocoa and vanilla. Other crops, like cucumbers, apples, mangos, avocados, pears and almonds, are category three foods, meaning that bees play a great role in their pollination.

To be fair, I should point out that our buzzing buddies aren’t alone in their pollination duties. They get a little help from flies, beetles and butterflies, but bees certainly perform the lion’s share of the task.

So, the next time you’re enjoying some watermelon in the backyard, and you see a bee going about its everyday tasks, pause for a moment to offer thanks. I’m not sure how to communicate gratitude to a bee, but a simple smile and nod should do.

UP NEXT: One of the most dedicated watermelon lovers in the world

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MIKE ROWE: FUTURE WATERMELON SEED SPITTING CHAMP?

November 10th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

You may know Mike Rowe from his hit TV show, “Dirty Jobs.” These days, he’s the host of CNN’s “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” a new show that brings viewers “face-to-face with men and women who march to the beat of a different drum.” CNN also calls it a show about “passion, purpose, and, occasionally, hobbies that get a little out of hand.”

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In a recent episode, Mike paid a visit to the hallowed watermelon festival grounds of the Luling Watermelon Thump. While there, he stopped by the Luling Spitway, which hosts the annual World Seed Spitting Championship. It’s also where Lee Wheeler entered the Guinness Book of World Records by spitting a watermelon seed more than 68 feet in 1989.

Of course, Mike put his spittin’ skills to the test, and you can see the results in the video below. The video stops short of revealing his official distance (maybe you can catch the episode in reruns), but it was probably much further than my distance!

UP NEXT: Why you should hug a bee today

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RECIPE: MUFFIN CRUMBLE PARFAIT

November 7th, 2014 by The Watermelon Guy

picI’ll be featuring three recipes this month on the Fridays leading up to Thanksgiving. Each one can be loosely applied to Turkey Day, starting with this one!

Breakfast is often overlooked or lost in the shuffle of all the Thanksgiving day festivities. If you have relatives who spend the night, you might serve them something quick and easy while you get the turkey in the oven, but it’s never something befitting of a day with such high culinary expectations.

This recipe for a tasty Muffin Crumble Parfait will change that. It’s still quick and easy, but it’s an upgrade from the plain bagel or bowl of cereal you might serve. Enjoy!

MUFFIN CRUMBLE PARFAIT

INGREDIENTS

3 small bran muffins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups fat free vanilla-flavored yogurt
2 cups chopped seedless watermelon (well-drained)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
4 cups small cubes of watermelon

INSTRUCTIONS

Crumble the muffins and divide among the bottom of four 12-ounce glasses, reserving about ¾ cup of the crumble. Mix the cinnamon and yogurt, and divide half of it over the crumbled muffin in the glass. Divide the watermelon and dried cranberries over the yogurt in the glasses. Divide the remaining yogurt over the watermelon and dried cranberries. Divide the remaining muffin crumble over the glasses, and top with honey. Garnish with the toasted sliced almonds, and top with watermelon cubes.

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

UP NEXT: Mike Rowe Tries His Hand at Watermelon Seed Spittin’

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