ROBERT K. OF ANNAPOLIS, MD, ASKS: If you’re not going to eat the outer rind of a watermelon, why is it so important to wash the watermelon before you carve it?
Excellent question, Robert. It’s one that I’m particularly fond of, because I’m a stickler for this important but often overlooked step of the watermelon-eating process.
Traditionally, we wash things to make them clean and generally more sanitary, right? We wash our hands before we eat (or at least we should). We wash our dishes. We wash our clothes. We wouldn’t think of NOT washing these things on a regular basis, so it only makes sense to wash our food, too.
The main reason it’s recommended that you wash your watermelon is to remove any dirt or other unseen “stuff” that might linger on the outside and be transferred to the inside of the watermelon when you cut into it. I’m not going to go into details about what sort of “stuff” might be loitering on the rind, but just think about how many people may have handled your watermelon in the grocery store before you purchased it, and that should paint a clear enough picture for you.
So how should you wash your watermelon? According to the aforementioned organizations, a quick but thorough bath under cool, running water should do the trick. For fruits with an outer surface that isn’t eaten (like a watermelon), feel free to also give a light scrubbing with a clean washcloth or sponge. And although you might be tempted to add some dish soap or detergent to the mix to get things extra clean, the USDA and FDA recommend against that, because those cleaning solutions might not be approved by the FDA for use on food.
From start to finish, your watermelon bath will only take a minute or two, but the results—a clean and delicious watermelon—are well worth it!
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