VINTAGE PHOTOS: ATTACK OF THE GIANT WATERMELON

October 14th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

I don’t know why, but 100 years ago, people were really fascinated with giant watermelon. I’m talking about comically huge watermelons, created with some slick photography tricks and illustrations. Don’t believe me? The postcards below are proof.

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Like this postcard notes, this is apparently how they do things in North Orwell, PA. Not only do they grow massive fruit and vegetables in the small northern Pennsylvania town, they also raise freakishly strong little girls. That wedge they’re lifting effortlessly probably weighs around 400 pounds. I’m not sure what’s in the water up there in North Orwell, but it’s a little scary.

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They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this “watermelon blockade” is just one of many examples. Here, we see a man who was forced to stop his horse-and-buggy to clear some runaway watermelon that had found their way onto the road. I’m not really sure how they got there. Maybe they fell off the back of a giant watermelon cart.

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This 1909 postcard depicts a “California watermelon.” It looks more like a giant pickle to me, but whatever. Have you noticed that the watermelon of yesteryear got progressively larger as you travelled west? North Orwell’s melons were a little bigger than a cow, Texas grew ‘em twice as large, and California’s watermelon were the size of a school bus … even though they didn’t have school busses back then.

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Here’s another 1909 postcard featuring gargantuan fruit (it was apparently a good year for crops). These men harvest the watermelon the way you’d assume a 3,000 pound watermelon would be harvested – they cut it into pieces and haul it off to the farmer’s market. At least that’s what I think is happening in this photo. It’s also possible that these are normal-sized watermelon and the men in this photo are really small. If that’s the case, I’d like to know where they found the tiny horse.

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RECIPE: WATERMELON FETA BRUSCHETTA

October 11th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picBy now, regular readers of this blog are well aware of the delectable combination of feta cheese and watermelon. Sweet meets salty and the result is deliciousness, plain and simple. This week’s recipe makes great use of both ingredients as toppings on slices of grilled French bread.

Of course, that French bread is better known as bruschetta. Funny story about bruschetta: Until about a year ago, I’d spent the first 30-something years of my life pronouncing it “broo-shetta.” Pretty much just like it looks, right? But that’s not how you say it. The correct pronunciation is “broo-sketta.” Or, if you’re placing the emphasis on the second syllable, it’s “broo-SKEH-tah.”

However you pronounce it, you might just decide to call this dish “delicious.” Or, “deeee-licious.” It’s really up to you.

WATERMELON FETA BRUSCHETTA

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)
2 cups diced watermelon
1 cup feta cheese, cut into fine diced cubes
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoon minced fresh mint
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste

For 16 toasts:
A 24-inch-long loaf of crust Italian or French bread
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

In a bowl, toss together watermelon, cheese, chives, mint, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste and mound about 1 tablespoon on oiled side of each toast.

To make toasts: Prepare grill or preheat broiler. With a serrated knife cut bread crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Combine the oil and garlic together and spread it on one side of the cut bread. Arrange bread slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes.

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

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SECOND SLICE: BE THE BEST HOUSE ON THE BLOCK WITH THESE WATERMELON CANDIES

October 8th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

I love watermelon so much, I’ve actually considered giving away wedges of watermelon to the kids who stop by our house on Halloween. After all, people give away oranges and apples to trick-or-treaters – or at least they used to – and watermelon makes just as a nice snack. Besides, fresh watermelon has been referred to as “nature’s candy,” so it should fit right in as a Halloween treat, right?

That’s what I thought, at least.

My wife wisely talked me out of the plan, and steered me toward a more sensible option: watermelon-flavored candy. I immediately liked the idea, so I took to the Internet in search of watermelon-flavored treats. Here’s what I came up with:

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Watermelon jelly candy slices – These chewy candies are shaped like watermelon and taste like watermelon. As a bonus, they’re seedless!

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Watermelon saltwater taffy – Until only a few years ago, I thought saltwater taffy was made with salt water. Turns out, it’s not … and that’s good. These treats include “seeds” and taste like watermelon.

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Watermelon hard candies – As a trick-or-treater, I was never a fan of hard candies, so I’ve decided against adding these to my Halloween candy arsenal.

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Watermelon lollipops – These are pretty cool, but like the hard candies, lollipops were never my favorite. Still, it’s hard to say no to food served on a stick.

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Watermelon gum balls – These treats score points because they’re shaped like tiny whole watermelons, but gum was always a middle-of-the-road option for me as a kid. I wouldn’t turn it down, mind you, but it was never my first candy choice.

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Watermelon gummy bears – Now we’re talking! I was always a sucker for gummy candies of any shape or flavor, and these watermelon-flavored bears sound pretty great.

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Watermelon “cream bites” – These licorice candies are filled with a “delicious watermelon cream.” Interesting. I’ll definitely be adding this one to my smorgasbord of options – and hoping there’s plenty left over for me!

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OCTOBER PRIZE: WATERMELON CANDY!

October 4th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picWe’re entering the final three months of the year. Or, as I like to call them, the “holiday months.” Each one is home to its own fun, food-filled holiday. Of course, I’m talking about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

October barely lays claim to Halloween, waiting until the very last day of the month to celebrate its occasion. Despite the late date, the Halloween festivities really begin much earlier than October 31. In fact, many communities schedule their annual trick-or-treating on days up to a week before the actual holiday. (I’m not really sure why. Does anyone else remember when trick-or-treating actually took place ON Halloween?)

Speaking of trick-or-treating, this month’s prize is guaranteed to make you one of the most popular houses on the block. The prize is 36 of the watermelon wedge lollipops and a three pound bag of watermelon taffy, both pictured above. To make sure you get your candy in plenty of time for Halloween, I’ll choose the winner in exactly one week. That timing should get your candy to you before your neighborhood’s Halloween celebration. If not, well, that just means more candy for you!

I’ll choose one comment at random from all the comments left on the blog between now and October 11 to win this sweet prize. I can’t actually guarantee that it’ll make you the most popular house on the block – certain chocolate and peanut butter candies might have you beat – but you’ll definitely score points for originality.

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EPCOT FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL SERVES UP FOOD, WINE AND WATERMELON!

October 2nd, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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A lot of people assume Disneyworld is “just for kids,” but they’re wrong. There are plenty of examples of grown-up fun down there in Orlando, Florida, but one of the most tempting is the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which runs from September 28 through November 11. Here’s how The Disney Blog describes the tasty experience:

The 46-day festival at Disney’s Epcot theme park serves up authentic cuisine from six continents; wine, beer and inventive new cocktails; nightly Eat to the Beat! concerts with entertainment ranging from rock and soul to funk and blues; cultural exhibits of more than 25 international regions; and regularly scheduled performances by acrobats, musicians, dancers and comedy troupes. 

The folks from the National Watermelon Promotion Board are there right now (the Board is based in Orlando). “Team Watermelon” is located in the Terra (Vegan) Marketplace, where they’re offering fresh watermelon juice to thirsty festival-goers.

Watermelon genius Chef Joe Poon even made an appearance during the festival’s opening weekend, showing off his carving and cooking skills on the festival’s center stage. Below is a shot of Chef Poon in action this past weekend.

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More than 1.5 million people will visit the festival this year. If you’d like to be one of them, all you need to do is purchase admission to the Epcot theme park ($87 for a three-day pass). Visit the Disney website for tickets and more information. If you do go, don’t forget to say hello to the watermelon team, and leave a comment below with your thoughts about the amazing experience!

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A YEAR IN REVIEW: WHICH CARVING WAS YOUR FAVORITE?

September 30th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

I woke up Saturday morning with every intention of creating one of my last watermelon carvings of the season. It was going to be a really cool Viking helmet. (I was even going to talk my wife into letting me put it on our three-year-old for the photo op.)

But alas, one thing led to another – as it often does when you have a three-year-old at home – and my plans to create a watermelon helmet were placed on the back burner. So, instead of creating a sweet piece of headgear, I’ve decided to use this entry to look back at all the watermelon carvings I’ve crafted this year. Below are snapshots of each creation. Which one is your favorite? Sound off with a comment and by answering the poll in the sidebar on the right!

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THE WATERMELON GRILL – Perfect for cooking up a few watermelon burgers and watermelon dogs!

 
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THE WATERMELOPHANT – One of many tasty stars from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

 
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THE WATERMELON TIKI MASK – It’s not so scary … until it starts spitting seeds at you.

 
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THE WATERMELON HIPPO – They say hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. From the looks of this marshmallow-toothed creature, that’s hard to believe.

 

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RESOLUTION UPDATE: I’M A TERRIBLE WATERMELON FARMER

September 28th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picMy watermelon plants have been outside for about four months, and it’s been roughly three months since the first tiny watermelon appeared on the vines. According to the package, the watermelon reach maturity – about the size of a volleyball – in about 80 days. That means this entry should be about the harvest and should feature pictures of me eating the watermelon.

You won’t see those pictures in this entry because the watermelon aren’t ready for harvest. In fact, they’re not even close. Even 90 days after they first appeared, my watermelon are still only the size of a baseball (that one above). And so, with the chill of October upon us and no real growth in the last 30 days, I’m going to officially conclude my first attempt at growing my own watermelon.

When searching for reasons for their stunted growth, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been the most attentive watermelon farmer. In fact, I’ve been terrible. I plopped the seedlings in the ground without any sort of fertilization beforehand and waterings have been sporadic. (I relied mainly on Mother Nature to provide her tough love.) The combination of those two bad farming habits are probably why I was left with tiny, inedible watermelon.

They’ve had their fair share of other problems, too. About four weeks ago, I noticed one of my larger melons – at the time, the size of a tennis ball – had developed a large one-inch black spot on its rind (see photo on the right). The center of the spot was soft, which led me to think that an insect or bird got the best of it. After considering my options for a few days, I decided to pluck it from the vine for two reasons: 1) If it had some sort of watermelon disease, I didn’t want it to spread to the others, and 2) I was really curious to cut it open and see what a tiny watermelon looked like inside.

Turns out, the inside of a tiny watermelon looks a lot like the inside of a regular sized watermelon — only a lot smaller. At the bottom of this entry is a photo of the inside of one of my “healthy” watermelon, which I plucked and cut open last night.

After doing some research about the black spot, I’ve deduced that it might be “blossom end rot,” a relatively common condition caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. In other words, caused by me being a lousy farmer. Oh well. Now I know what to do differently when I grow more watermelon next year!

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RECIPE: CREAMY WATERMELON SHERBET

September 24th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picAnyone who knows me is well aware of my watermelon addiction, but those who know me really well also know that I love ice cream. That’s ice cream, not sherbet. There’s a difference, of course. Ice cream is made with milk and cream (hence the name), while sherbet is mainly fruit juice, with only a little milk.

I don’t dislike sherbet, mind you, it’s just not my number one choice when I’m in the mood for a frosty treat. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been mispronouncing it for the first 35 years of my life. Until just a few years ago, I also called it “sher-bert” (with a second “r”). It’s actually “sher-bit.” Oh well.

I’ve never made ice cream or “sher-bit” at home – until now. I found this recipe for Creamy Watermelon Sherbet on the National Watermelon Promotion Board website and it sounded relatively simple, so I gave it shot. Wouldn’t you know it, it actually turned out pretty good! That’s a photo of my homemade treat below.

CREAMY WATERMELON SHERBET

INGREDIENTS

5 cups watermelon puree (about one large watermelon)
1 ½ tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lime juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Soften gelatin in ½ cup of the watermelon puree. Let stand 5 minutes at room temperature and then heat gently to dissolve gelatin. Cool slightly. Add remaining watermelon puree, sugar, nutmeg, lemon juice and milk to gelatin mixture. Freeze in ice cream freezer according to appliance directions.

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SECOND SLICE: I’M MOVING TO HUNGARY!

September 20th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

picWatermelon festivals are a pretty common occurrence here in the United States (mainly in the South) and most share similar features, like watermelon eating contests, seed spitting contests and the crowning of a watermelon queen. Pretty typical stuff, but that’s not the case at watermelon festivals outside the U.S.

I stumbled onto an article yesterday about a watermelon festival in Hungary in which they crown a “Watermelon Knight” instead of a queen. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

A father and son were crowned kings of the watermelon at a festival dedicated to the fruit in a small Hungarian town on Sunday.  The highlight of the event is a competition to crown the ‘Watermelon Knight”, in which contestants compete at eating, juggling, packing and guessing the weight of watermelons. This year’s winner was Jozsef Kraller, whose son also won the junior contest.

The more I think about it, the more I think a “Watermelon Knight” might be a good idea for American watermelon festivals. Knights are pretty cool, what with the armor and helmet and jousting. I don’t know if the Hungarian Watermelon Knight got to wear a suit of armor, but the title is still worth the effort.

Actually, something I missed when I first read that article just occurred to me. The excerpt above mentions that prospective knights competed at “eating, juggling, packing and guessing the weight of watermelons.” I have no idea what “packing” is, at least in the context of watermelons. Did they have to pack them in a bin? Perhaps some sort of test of speed and strength? I don’t know. Whatever it is, I’d do it for a chance to be a watermelon knight.

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QUOTABLE WATERMELON: FAMILY TIME

September 18th, 2013 by The Watermelon Guy

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In my monthly search for quotes, I’ve discovered that there are basically four types: Quotes about sports, quotes about food, quotes about family, and quotes about everything else. Today’s “quotable watermelon” line fits two of those categories.

It’s 100 percent true that food tastes better when you enjoy it with family or friends. Have you ever eaten a double bacon cheeseburger alone? It’s good, but it’s not great. It’s sort of like watching old episodes of Seinfeld by yourself. Still funny, but you laugh out loud a little less often.

As you can see, I’ve changed the quote to make it more specific. Watermelon is definitely better with friends and family there to enjoy it with you. That’s especially true for me. Some of my fondest watermelon memories were from my childhood. At family reunions we’d get a watermelon – the kind with the big black seeds – and I’d torment my brother by spitting seeds at him until he got so mad he’d throw his watermelon rind in my direction and end up hitting my Uncle Charlie in the back of the head. Ahh, the good old days.

I still enjoy watermelon with family, and even though it’s the seedless kind, it’s still fun. Does my brother still throw rinds at me? Yes. Is his aim still horrible? You bet.

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