RECIPE: BLUE WATERMELON WALNUT SALAD

May 22nd, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it,” you may be a picky eater. Or maybe you’re just very emotive about foods you don’t really like. Either way, your reaction to certain snacks is most commonly expressed with a short, sweet, “eww” or “thanks, but no thanks.”

Since I’ve always been a foodie, I will literally try any food item once. My wife, however, does not share the same dining mindset. When I told her I was going to feature this recipe for Blue Watermelon Walnut Salad, she thought it sounded great. Her only hang-up was the blue cheese, of which she’s not a big fan (to be completely honest, neither am I).

I gave her the old, “don’t knock it ‘til you try it” speech, and that’s exactly what she did. I prepared it, she tried it, and she liked it! Whether you’re a picky eater or not, you should definitely give this recipe a try. The sweetness of the fruits paired with the blue cheese and walnuts is a combination you won’t regret.

BLUE WATERMELON WALNUT SALAD

INGREDIENTSp

1 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 ounces fresh baby greens
2 oranges, seedless, peeled and sectioned
4 cups seedless watermelon cubes
2 cups seedless grapes, halved
2 cups fresh, trimmed and sliced strawberries
1 cup crumbled blue cheese

DIRECTIONS

Heat the walnuts in a seasoned wok or heavy non-stick sauté pan over medium for a minute, and stir in the sugar and soy sauce. Adjust heat to prevent burning while constantly stirring the nuts until the sugar melts. Continue to stir and cook until the nuts begin to stick, and the mixture becomes sticky. Spread the nuts over a sheet of waxed paper or parchment paper and cool. Break apart into small pieces and crumble. Set aside.

Heat the vinegar in a heavy, non-corrosive saucepan over medium heat, and stir in sugar. Continue to stir, and adjust heat to bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the rosemary sprig to the pan. Continue to simmer until the contents of the pan reduces by 1/2 its original volume. Set aside.

Divide the greens among six or eight salad plates, and arrange the orange sections, watermelon, grapes and strawberries over the greens. Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the fruit, and the cheese crumbles over that. Top with the candied walnut pieces and serve.

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

UP NEXT: Making watermelon jelly

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GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART ONE): PLANTING THE SEEDS

May 20th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

Christopher Kent knows a thing or two about growing giant watermelons. Mainly because the 350-pound Carolina Cross he grew in 2013 is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest watermelon (that’s Chris with it on the right). Chris grows giant watermelon every year, and this year he’s agreed to let us tag along in a series of monthly blog entries showcasing his attempt to set a new world record.ll

The giant watermelons are grown at Chris’s home in the small town of Sevierville, Tennessee, about 15 minutes outside of Knoxville. He’s been growing watermelon since 2008 and, from the beginning, he’s had a natural green thumb. Just two years later, in 2010, Chris produced a 290-pound world record holder and he hasn’t looked back since.

CHOOSING THE SEEDS

The process for growing the world’s largest watermelon starts with the seeds, but not just any seeds. Chris (and other giant watermelon growers like him) use seeds from the Carolina Cross variety of watermelon and only from specific watermelons that have reached gargantuan proportions. In some ways, growing the world’s largest watermelon is a lot like breeding a champion race horse — who the parents are makes all the difference.

“There are many seeds to choose from. Always too many it seems,” said Chris about the process. “Some are my own seed lines. Some are from other great growers from around the country.”

The seeds are named according to the weight of the watermelon they came from and the last name of the grower who produced it. The seeds that made the cut this year included the 291 Kent (the mother of the current 350-pound record holder), the champion 350 Kent, a 199 Mudd from a grower in Kentucky, a 169 Cantrell from a fellow Tennessee grower, and a 251 Kent from Chris’s 2014 crop.

“The 199 Mudd is from one of Frank Mudd’s watermelons. It’s a very good, proven seed,” said Chris. “The 169 Cantrell has a lot of potential, but it’s unproven. We’ll see how that one does.”

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PLANTING THE SEEDS

The seeds are soaked in water for an hour and then planted in potting mix. For Chris, that part of the process started in mid-April. They’ll spend the first few days indoors in a warm environment of about 90 degrees, and the seeds will sprout in three to four days. Once they’ve sprouted, they’ve leave Chris’s home and head outside.

“They need to enjoy the sun and get acclimated as much as possible to the outdoors,” said Chris. “They’ll spend their days outside and the nights inside since our mid-spring here in Tennessee was kind of cool.”

Chris brought the sprouts inside and outside for about two weeks (that’s the 291 Kent above after it was transplanted outdoors). At the beginning of May, the weather turned warm in Seviersville, and the tiny future giants were planted outside to begin their journey toward hopefully growing into the biggest watermelon in the world.

Stay tuned for another update next month about Chris’s watermelons. In our next blog entry, we’ll talk with Chris about the daily care of the plants and his process for identifying which ones might be potential future record-holders.

UP NEXT: A fantastic watermelon salad

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HOW TO CARVE: A STEGOSAURUS

May 18th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

We’re only one month away from the start of summer, which means the big bin of watermelons has officially returned to grocery stores everywhere. And when the big bin of watermelons returns, it means I can restart my monthly tradition of carving demonstrations here on the blog.

To kick off the 2015 carving season, I’ve decided to ease into things with a carving that’s a little less ambitious than others that I’ll work on later this summer. It’s sort of like stretching before a big race.

To warm up, I’ve created a Watermelon Stegosaurus. As you’ll see from the photos below, on a difficulty scale of one to 10, this one is somewhere around a four, which is right where you want to start when you’re warming up for a busy summer of carving.

Picture1

For this carving, you’ll need a larger, oblong watermelon. As always, you’ll want to give your watermelon a thorough cleaning before you start cutting!

photo 2 (2)

The first step is to cut out your Stegosaurus body. To do that, cut out the middle section of the watermelon (cutting lengthwise). Your slice should be about two inches thick. Once you’ve got your slice, cut off the bottom portion to create a flat base so your carving can stand upright.

photo 3

Using some of rind you cut off in the step above, cut off two pieces of rind and clean off the watermelon. After you’ve got those two pieces, you’ll use them to create your dinosaur head and tail.

photo 4

All that’s left now is to attach the head, tail and Stegosaurus plates on the back (the strawberries). Toothpicks will be used for this step, along with one toothpick for a Stegosaurus eye. You’ll also need to slice a few oranges for feet and use raisins for the toes.

For more watermelon-carving ideas, check out the carvings page of the National Watermelon Promotion Board website!

UP NEXT: Growing the world’s largest watermelon (part one)

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CAN A WATERMELON BE USED TO CHARGE A CELLPHONE?

May 14th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the fact that an everyday, ordinary potato could generate an electrical charge. It wasn’t much of a charge, but it was still a charge. Turns out, the spud isn’t the only item in the produce aisle that’s capable of delivering a little power. Watermelons can also be used to power electronic devices, including being used to charge your smartphone.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself until a friend sent me a link to this video (Note: The video is entertaining, but it does contain some not-safe-for-work-or-kids language). If you don’t want to watch the video, here’s a basic rundown:

If you partially submerge a medium-sized watermelon in a bath of salty ice water and plug your smartphone charger into the rind, it’s supposed to generate enough electricity to charge your phone (albeit extremely slowly). The first attempt in the video didn’t work. They added more ice and more salt, and — wow! — it worked!

Skeptical, I watched several more “watermelon phone charger” videos on YouTube, and each of the attempts failed miserably. I began to wonder if the first video was some sort of prank or, in some way, a flawed experiment.

With that in mind, and desperately wanting this to actually work, I decided to perform the experiment for myself.

NOTE: If you try this experiment for yourself, make sure you wipe off your phone charger’s prongs (the metal parts that plug into the wall) and remove any moisture before plugging it for normal use!

Here’s how it all went down:

Watermelon charging BUCKET

For this experiment, you’ll need to fill a medium-sized basin with cold water, plenty of ice, a generous serving of salt and one watermelon. The salt, as anyone who’s made ice cream will tell you, allows the water to get super cold. Don’t ask me how or why, but it does.

Watermelon charging FIRST ATTEMPT

I vowed to wait about 10 minutes, but the anticipation was killing me, so I plugged in after only five minutes. The result was disappointing. There was no little “charging” lightning bolt next to the battery indicator on my phone. I unplugged the charger and plugged it into a different part of the watermelon. Still nothing.

Guessing that this experiment required the watermelon to be REALLY cold, I added more ice and more salt, and vowed to give it another shot in 30 minutes.

Watermelon charging SECOND ATTEMPT

I really wanted this experiment to work but, sadly, it did not. I plugged my phone back into the watermelon and my confused phone registered no indication that it was receiving any power from the watermelon. Oh well, at least I’ve got an ice cold watermelon to show for my efforts!

NOTE: Like I mentioned earlier, if you try the experiment for yourself, make sure you wipe off your phone charger’s prongs (the metal parts that plug into the wall) and remove any moisture before plugging it for normal use!

UP NEXT: The 2015 watermelon festival calendar

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IT’S FESTIVAL SEASON! THE 2015 WATERMELON FESTIVAL CALENDAR

May 12th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

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I may have mentioned it before, but one of the drawbacks of being a watermelon lover in the Northeast is the distinct lack of watermelon festivals in my neck of the woods. Seriously, if you look at the 2015 festival calendar below, they’re pretty much all in the South!

I understand why, of course. Watermelon is grown primarily in the southern United States, and it has a longstanding history below the Mason-Dixon line. But there are plenty of watermelon lovers in the North, too, including yours truly. Maybe I’ll do my best to create a watermelon festival here in Pennsylvania next year. I can’t promise that it’ll be nearly as grand as something like the Luling Watermelon Thump, but every great festival has to start somewhere, right?

Below is a list of some of those notable watermelon festivals happening this year. As always, this list isn’t a complete listing of festivals. There are plenty of others happening around the United States, so if there’s a festival you’d like to see listed here, leave a comment, and I’ll add it!

Check out the “Festivals” page of the National Watermelon Promotion Board website for a much longer listing of watermelon festivals and watermelon days (50 events in all!). If you’re headed to a watermelon festival this year, send a few photos my way ([email protected]), and I’ll post them here on What About Watermelon.

 

HAMPTON COUNTY WATERMELON FESTIVAL (June 20-28)

LOCATION: Hampton, South Carolina

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

LULING WATERMELON THUMP (June 25-28)

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 26-27)

LOCATION: Chipley, Florida

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

PAGELAND WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 17-18)

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

MISSISSIPPI WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 17-18)

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

LOUISIANA WATERMELON FESTIVAL (July 24-25)

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 6-8)

LOCATION: Hope, Arkansas

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

WINTERVILLE WATERMELON FESTIVAL (August 27-29)

LOCATION: Winterville, North Carolina

HIGHLIGHTS: Youth seed-spitting contest, youth watermelon roll contest, watermelon-coloring contest, watermelon-eating contest

UP NEXT: Need a charger? Use your melon!  

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FOUR INTERESTING WATERMELON PHOTOS

May 8th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

If you do a Google image search for watermelon, you’ll come across the usual assortment of wedges and other typical photos. But every now and then, you’ll come across something a little unusual. Those crazy watermelon photos are actually more common than you might think. In fact, crazy watermelon photos are a lot more common than, say, crazy apple photos or crazy pineapple photos.

Why so many zany watermelon images? Well, I’d like to think it’s because watermelon is a fun fruit. And when you’ve got a fun fruit in the mix, fun things can happen. Here are four strange watermelon images that caught my eye in a recent search for my favorite fruit.

SalmonWatermelonSliders

What are these colorful treats? No, they’re not candies — they’re cake pops. Like most watermelon-themed cakes, I’m not sure if they actually taste like watermelon or simply look like watermelon. Either way, I want one. And, if they taste like watermelon, I want two or three!

SalmonWatermelonSliders

No, this isn’t a photo of my house. I wish it were, though. Despite my best attempts to track down this brilliantly-colored home, I really don’t know where it’s located. Wherever it is, I’m sure this homeowner’s neighbors are happy. Why? Because when you live next door to someone who’s cool enough to paint their house to look like watermelon, you know you’ve got a fun and friendly person living next to you.

SalmonWatermelonSliders

I’m not sure if this person created one of my favorite carvings (the shark!) and then decided to have a little fun by intentionally sticking it on the dog’s head, or if the dog decided to snack on the carving and got his head stuck in it. Either way, it’s funny. The dog might not be laughing, but I like to think he got a few wedges of watermelon for being such a good sport.

SalmonWatermelonSliders

Speaking of dogs, check out this wolf! He just grabbed himself a snack from the watermelon patch and is headed home to enjoy his treat with some friends. Or maybe he’ll eat it all by himself. I’ve done that before. I didn’t carry the watermelon home from the grocery store in my mouth, but I might give that a try next time I leave the store!

UP NEXT: Watermelon Festival Calendar

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SECOND SCOOP: WHAT’S THE BEST KIND OF WATERMELON?

May 6th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

JOHN K. OF NEW BLOOMFIELD, PA, ASKS: What’s the best kind of watermelon?0

Great question, John. Your inquiry may be only six words, but it’s actually quite difficult to answer.

Within the main categories of seedless, picnic (seeded), mini watermelons and yellow flesh watermelons are hundreds of different types, many of which are very closely related because they are literally closely related. What I mean by that is that many watermelon are crossbred to produce a product that has the best attributes of both contributing varieties.

Although the exact variety of watermelon you might buy in the grocery store is often unknown (if it’s a seedless, it could be one of several varieties), it’s a pretty safe bet that the best type of watermelon is the kind that’s sitting right in front of you and ready to be eaten. I know that’s an easy way to answer your question, but it’s true, right?

When I talk to people about the different “types” of watermelon, I usually focus on the main categories (seedless, seeded, mini and yellow flesh). Some people prefer seedless watermelon (no need to worry about seeds!), while others like watermelon with seeds because you can spit the seeds at your brother, like I used to do (and sometimes still do). Other folks like the mini watermelons because they’re easy to handle and store.

My recommendation is to try lots of different types of watermelon to see which type works best for you. Best case scenario: You get to eat lots of watermelon this summer and you find out that you really like several different types!

UP NEXT: Four crazy watermelon photos

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MAY PRIZE: WHO’S THIRSTY FOR A WATERMELON DRINK?

May 4th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

You know, it’s good to see watermelon-flavored drinks finally making an appearance in grocery stores. Nothing against, oranges, apples and grapes — their juice is great, too — but watermelon juice is long overdue for its time in the beverage spotlight.0

It’s catching on with some big names, too. According to Details magazine, A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and Beyoncé are big fans of watermelon-infused drinks.

I’ve been known to make my own watermelon beverages from time to time, but if I can buy a pre-made drink — one made with REAL watermelon juice — I definitely will. One of the newest juices is called WTRMLN WTR, which mixes cold-pressed watermelon flesh, rind, and lemon juice to create a drink that’s made for summer, but tastes good all year round.

Like any watermelon juice (or watermelon snack), it’s loaded with natural nutrients like citrulline — an amino acid that’s great for muscle recovery — and lycopene. Both of those perks make watermelon (juice or snack) a good post-workout habit.

Of course, my workouts these days involve mowing the lawn and chasing a four-year-old around the living room, so I eat watermelon every chance I get. I’ve purchased an 8-pack of WTRMLN WTR for myself and will give another 8-pack away as this month’s prize to one commenter chosen at random ALL the comments left on the blog this month. Cheers!

UP NEXT: What’s the best kind of watermelon?

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TWO RECIPES TO HELP YOU CELEBRATE CINCO DE MAYO WITH STYLE (AND WATERMELON!)

May 1st, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

Summer is definitely my favorite season, but if I had to pick a specific month to be my favorite month, I’d choose May. For me, May spells the beginning of beautiful weather, great food and baseball season in full swing.

Another reason I love May involves one of my favorite dining options: Mexican food! The flavors, the spices and the fresh ingredients all come together to create a something great about 99.9 percent of the time. And on the fifth day of May, better known as Cinco de Mayo, I get to celebrate with gusto the food of our neighbors to the south.

Cinco de Mayo is an important Mexican holiday, to say the least. It’s a day filled with various dishes of tapas (appetizers) and enchiladas, but it’s also a celebration of Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

And so, on May 5, we will tip our hats to you, Mexico. Feel free to join the celebration by preparing one (or both) of these watermelon-inspired recipes.

BAJA FISH TACOS WITH WATERMELON GUACAMOLE

INGREDIENTS00
2 medium avocados, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons diced jalapeno pepper
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies, drained
2 1/2 cups diced watermelon, divided
Salt
Cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds cod
Chili powder
12–16 corn tortillas
3–4 cups coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
1/2–1 cup salsa

DIRECTIONS
For guacamole, mash avocados to mix of smooth and chunky in medium bowl. Add lime, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic and chilies, and mix thoroughly. Add 1 1/2 cups diced watermelon and salt (if desired), and toss. Cover and refrigerate to let flavors blend. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place cod on sheet and sprinkle with chili powder and salt. Bake for 12–20 minutes (depending on thickness of fish) or until cooked through. Remove from oven and cut into pieces. Heat tortillas on grill or griddle. Top each with a few pieces of fish, 1/4 cup coleslaw mix, a heaping spoonful of guacamole, a tablespoon of salsa and a few pieces of remaining diced watermelon.

WATERMELON MARGARITA

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 ounces tequila
3/4 ounce Triple Sec
3/4 ounce Midori
2 ounces sour mix
6 ounces cubed, seeded watermelon
8 ounces ice

DIRECTIONS
Blend all ingredients. Serve in 14-ounce glass. Garnish with lime and watermelon wedge.

UP NEXT: Our May prize!

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ROYAL TRAINING: A RECAP OF THE ANNUAL WATERMELON QUEEN TRAINING WEEKEND

April 29th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

The 2015 National Watermelon Queen, Emily Brown of Vincennes, Indiana, was crowned earlier this year at the National Watermelon Association’s annual convention (look for an interview with Emily in an upcoming blog entry). The national queen stays very busy throughout the year, but did you know that there are eight other queens who represent various states and regional watermelon associations.

The queens will be tasked with promoting their area’s watermelon crop and will represent the watermelon industry special events, store openings, schools, festivals and parades. They’ll also perform media interviews and may be asked to speak to large groups of people.

All those interviews and appearances mean their speaking and presentation skills need to be sharp. To help with that (and much more), the queens paid a visit to Raleigh, North Carolina this past weekend for a weekend of training sponsored by Bayer CropScience.

On the agenda were sessions about performing media interviews, how to make the most of an event or in-store demo, and even lessons on appearances and etiquette. The day started off with Watermelon 101, transitioned to Queen 101 and continued with communications and presentation training. To wrap up the day, hosts from Bayer CropScience presented on the company, the crop and the watermelon’s many attributes. Bayer presenters included Caitlin Tierney, Chuck Elam, Russ Beckham and Rob Beets. And that was just one day.

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The weekend kicked off with a reception on Friday, where the queens met with Bayer CropScience leadership, the National Watermelon Promotion Board team, and also North Carolina NWPB board member and vice president Tony Moore of Moore’s Produce. Not only do the nine watermelon queens come for training, but several states also send their first runner up to be trained for coverage if and when they are double booked during their promotional year.

Saturday afternoon’s media and communications training was facilitated by agency professionals with Porter Novelli. Sunday morning was spent back at the Bayer Bee Care Center with presentations and a tour of the facility by Becky Langer and Sarah Myers with Bayer CropScience.

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During their time in Raleigh, the queens were hosted at the Bayer Crop Science Bee Care Center (above and below). While there, they learned about the important role that bees play in bringing watermelon (and many other crops) to life.

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National Watermelon Promotion Board Executive Director Mark Arney (left) and Chuck Elam (right) from Bayer CropScience/Nunhems USA were also in attendance at the Bee Care Center. Did you know that bees help pollenate more than 100 crops in the U.S. and more than a third of the foods that we eat? Check out our past blog entry for more info about the amazing work that bees do.

UP NEXT: TWO Watermelon Recipes

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