ASK THE EXPERTS: HOW TO CUT A WATERMELON

July 30th, 2010 by The Watermelon Guy

MARIE ASKS: I have a very large watermelon and want to cut it into small wedges for a picnic. What’s the easiest way to cut it?

Good question, Marie. There are many ways to wedge a large watermelon, but the easiest way is cut the watermelon in half and then cut 1- to 2-inch thick slices off the exposed end of one of the halves. Then take this 1- or 2-inch thick watermelon “wheel,” lay it down and cut it into wedges like a pizza. You can do big wedges or small wedges. It’s up to you. I’m a visual learner myself, so I drew the attached illustration to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Please don’t make fun of my artistic skills!

For medium size watermelons, I use a slightly different method, like the one in the video below, except you’d skip the step in the middle that separates the flesh from the rind. Hope this helps!

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ASK THE EXPERTS: WHY DID YOU BECOME A WATERMELON FARMER?

July 19th, 2010 by The Watermelon Guy

Here’s a good question from a What About Watermelon reader. This one is answered by Ryan Van Groningen, a fourth generation watermelon grower from California.

CASEY A. FROM ROYSTON, GA, ASKS: I’ve always thought being a watermelon farmer would be a pretty neat job and was wondering why you became a watermelon farmer. Out of all the different crops you could have grown, what made you choose watermelon?

For me, the decision to grow watermelon was easy because watermelon growing is a family tradition! My family’s farm is called Van Groningen & Sons and I’m a fourth generation grower. To put it simply, we love what we do!

My family has been farming since 1922, when my great grandfather Henry Van Groningen (that’s him in the picture above) began farming row crops here in California. In 1929, he moved to our current location in Ripon, CA, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, and the rest is history. Today, I help manage the farm along with the rest of my family, which includes my father, my brothers, my sister, and my cousin.

As for why we chose watermelon as one of the crops to build our farm around, I have to say a big reason is because watermelon is a fruit that everyone loves! We take great pleasure in watching people enjoy such a fun and healthy treat. Also, the watermelon industry is a fast and furious business in the summer months, which means there’s never a dull moment because of the high volume of demand. And when you’re a farmer, being busy is always a good thing!

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ASK THE EXPERTS: FARMER JOSH – WHAT DO YOU DO IN THE OFFSEASON?

January 21st, 2010 by The Watermelon Guy

JANICE K. ASKS: What does a watermelon farmer like yourself do during the watermelon offseason? You work pretty hard, so hopefully you can take some time off!

Josh BaileyThanks for your question, Janice. I would like to say that I rest and do nothing, but that’s not the case. The life of a farmer is busy pretty much year round and the actual “off season” is very short.

I grow watermelons from South Florida to Michigan, so it seems like there is always something going on. When there is some downtime, most of my time is spent reviewing the previous year and making plans for the next season. Still, the off season does give me more time off than the growing season, and when I have some time off I spend it with my family!

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MEET THE WHAT ABOUT WATERMELON EXPERT PANELISTS

November 9th, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy

As you may have noticed by now, What About Watermelon is home to a very smart panel of watermelon experts. That’s them in the right hand sidebar. You can ask them anything you’d like about watermelon, and you’ll get a personalized response. Some questions will even be featured right here on the blog.

Below is a little more information about each of our experts to help you all get to know our wise watermelon panelists a little better.

CHEF HARRY SCHWARTZ
Expertise: Cooking and preparing watermelon

ChefHarryChef Harry is the creator and host of the popular PBS show, “Chef Harry and Friends,” and is known for his high-energy shows on Shop at Home Network. He has appeared as a regular contributor on NBC’s “Today Show” as well as the KTLA-CBS Food Guru in Los Angeles and the Fox Food Guru in Nashville.

He has written a syndicated feature for Copley news service, authored 5 books and serves as a creative spokesperson and consultant for several corporations. He contributes to several news and talk shows and is Culinary and Creative Director for Heritage Trail Vineyards, Winery and Cafe. For more information about Chef Harry, feel free to visit his website at chefharry.com.

JOSH BAILEY  
Expertise: Growing and harvesting watermelon

Josh BaileyJosh Bailey comes from a family farming background, and he started his own operation called Premier Melon Company in January 2004. Previously, he worked for his uncle’s company for 10 years, gaining experience in watermelon growing and handling.

Josh lives in Schoolcraft, Michigan, and is a past president of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

DR. PENNY PERKINS-VEAZIE
Expertise: The science of watermelon

Dr Perkins-VeazieDr. Perkins-Veazie specializes in postharvest methods, shelf life, and phytochemical changes of fruits and vegetables. Previously, she worked for 20 years for the USDA, in the Agricultural Research Service, at Lane, OK.

Dr. Perkins-Veazie has authored or co-authored more than 100 research papers and pioneered studies on changes in lycopene and other carotenoids in watermelon germplasm, with storage, production environment and with minimal processing.

In her current position, Dr. Perkins-Veazie is responsible in coordinating human health trials to address chronic diseases that encompass horticultural crops, human nutrition, and medical science.

ELIZABETH SOMER
Expertise: Health benefits of watermelon

Elizabeth SomerElizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D., is a nutritionist, dietician and author of several books, including Age-Proof Your Body,  Food & Mood, The Food & Mood Cookbook , and Nutrition For Women. She is an Advisory Board member to Shape Magazine and Editor in Chief of Nutrition Alert, a newsletter that summarizes the current research from more than 6,000 journals.

Elizabeth is a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, former nutrition correspondent to ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Later Today, and she appears monthly on AMNorthWest, the Portland, Oregon morning show. Her hour-long special on Age-Proof Your Body aired nationwide on Public Television in 2001.

QUEEN MAGGIE BAILEY
Expertise: Pretty much anything related to watermelons!

QueenMaggie Bailey, crowned the 2009 National Watermelon Queen, is from Vincennes, Indiana. As National Watermelon Queen, Maggie travels throughout the U.S. and abroad, promoting the watermelon industry and making guest appearances at special events and in the media.

Maggie will give selection tips and food safety tips as well as inform people about the nutritional and culinary benefits of watermelon. She will also educate consumers on the versatility and economic value of watermelon and field questions about life as the National Watermelon Queen.

J. SLICE
Expertise: Kids’ stuff about watermelons

JSliceLARGEJ. Slice, the National Watermelon Promotion Board’s mascot, communicates watermelon’s nutritional value and great taste to children and parents everywhere. J. Slice is active in just about every sport there is, but he especially loves skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding. When he’s not outside having fun, J. Slice fights Professor Junk Food, and rescues kids from getting hooked on the Professor’s unhealthy offerings. Feel free to ask J. Slice about how watermelon can be a part of any kid’s healthy diet.

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ASK THE EXPERTS: THE MYSTERIOUS BLUE WATERMELON

October 12th, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy

In this recurring column, our panel of watermelon experts answer a question posed through our “Ask the Experts” feature in the right hand sidebar. Feel free to ask your own question. All questions get a response and some will be featured here on What About Watermelon.

DEE ASKS: Probably twenty years ago, my uncle used to drive to the southern heel of Missouri and into Arkansas to purchase vegetables and fruit to bring back to mid-Missouri and sell. On one of his trips, he brought back an unusual watermelon to show his friends and family. The melon had seeds, but the flesh of the watermelon was blue. Has anyone else heard of this blue fleshed watermelon? We have been trying to find another one in recent years, but everyone we ask in that area says they’ve never heard of them.

As soon as I read your question, Dee, I was immediately consumed by an urge to track down this mysterious blue watermelon. I personally have never heard of a blue watermelon (I’ve seen yellow watermelons), so I asked some of my watermelon farming friends about it. Much to my dismay, they had never heard of it either.

blue watermelonThen I went online to try to track down the elusive watermelon and could only find the photo on the right of what looks like a very blue watermelon, but I think the picture might be the result of editing magic. (As you pointed out in a follow-up to my answer, it’s too much of a coincidence that the watermelon matches the cabinets and everything else in the picture has sort of a bluish tint.) It might be possible to create a blue watermelon using dye, but at this point, I don’t think it’s possible to grow a blue watermelon naturally.

And so, the mystery remains unsolved… for now.

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ASK THE EXPERTS: CAN I PLANT A WATERMELON SEED?

September 21st, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy

In this recurring column, our panel of watermelon experts answer a question posed through our “Ask the Experts” feature in the right hand sidebar. Feel free to ask your own question. All questions get a response and some will be featured here on What About Watermelon.

MALICK FROM TRIPOLI (ALL THE WAY FROM LIBYA!) ASKS: Is it possible to use one black seed from inside a store-bought watermelon to grow your own? If so, what are the instructions to grow my own tasty treat?

Good question, Malick. The short answer is: sort of.

The only problem with growing watermelons using the seeds of a watermelon you bought in a grocery store is that the watermelon you purchased is more than likely a hybrid variety, which is a special cross between two types of watermelon, each contributing their best qualities to create one great-tasting fruit.

You can plant those seeds, and they may grow into a watermelon (though not always), but the result won’t be the same type of watermelon you purchased and enjoyed months ago. It’ll be a smaller, less tasty watermelon – the kind a lot of farmers call “pig melons” because they’re only good for feeding to the pigs.

I’d recommend purchasing watermelon seeds from your local nursery or gardening store. If possible, buy the open pollinated heirloom variety, which will yield fruit with seeds that you can plant the next year.

If you’re up for a challenge, or just curious, and decide to use seeds from a store-bought watermelon (or are using seeds from an open pollinated heirloom watermelon), you’ll need to dry the seeds before you plant them. Oh, and make sure the watermelon hasn’t been chilled, because the cold temperature will damage the seeds. To dry your seeds, place them on a towel or some newspaper in a sunny spot (a window sill will do) for about a week. Once they’re dry, you can plant them!

Of course, actually growing a watermelon is a whole other question and process in itself. It requires a lot of attention, water and sunlight, but the reward for all your hard work is definitely worth it. Do some research online for tips on growing your own watermelon. To get you started, this website has a brief overview of the process. Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!

UPDATE: Malick e-mailed me back about two weeks later with the following exciting news and photo below:

I just thought I would inform you that the seeds I planted HAVE grown in to baby watermelon plants but it hasn’t been quite long enough for them to grow watermelons yet. Thanks a lot for all the information you gave me!

watermelon sprouts

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ASK THE EXPERTS: CLEANING MY WATERMELON?

June 15th, 2009 by Chef Harry

In this recurring column, our panel of watermelon experts answer a question posed through our “Ask the Experts” feature in the right hand sidebar. Feel free to ask your own question. All questions get a response and some will be featured here on What About Watermelon.

ELEANOR K. ASKS: Should I clean the outside of my watermelon before eating it? If so, what’s the best way to do that?

chefharryGood question, Eleanor. Like most fruits and vegetables, you should clean the outside of your watermelon, even though you don’t eat the rind. (Although some people do, but that’s a topic for another day.) There’s not likely to be anything too horrible on there, but a quick cleaning will eliminate the chances of transferring whatever’s on the outside of your watermelon to the inside when you cut into it.

Unlike most other things in the kitchen, cleaning a watermelon is pretty easy. I usually just rinse it under cold water and wipe it dry – sort of like an apple. If it’s too big to fit in your sink (lucky you), a wipe down with a damp cloth should do the trick.

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