There are few delights of summer as exquisite as a bite into the crunchy, juicy sweetness of a watermelon slice. We may gripe about the season’s heat and humidity, but in that refreshing first bite of overmoist concentrated candied sunshine we find just compensation. Still, there’s a serious problem with watermelon.
It’s not that there’s a shortage. This is watermelon time in Southern New England and supermarkets and roadsides stands display mounds of them, enough to keep the most devoted aficionado satisfied. No, the problem is with seeds, or rather the lack of them. Virtually all watermelons found at the regular outlets are seedless. Who decided seeds were no good?
While I’m partial to the pink-fleshed, oversized football shaped fruit with handsome dark green stripes on a field of light green, I’m liberal minded enough to accept that watermelons can come in many shapes and sizes, with and without seeds. In fact, some sources maintain there are over 1,200 varieties. They range in size from under a pound to over 250 pounds and have flesh that is red, orange, yellow and white. There are square watermelons and even one with a purplish-black rind and yellow splotches. But despite this abundant variety, lack of seeds is an issue that may ultimately lead to a decline in watermelon consumption.
Having attended several picnics this summer where watermelon was part of the feast, I noticed that adults were more likely than children to enjoy a glistening slice of the fruit. This stands in sharp contrast to my 1960s childhood when almost all kids found a watermelon the absolute apex of outdoor meals. The difference, I believe, is in the seeds.
When I was a kid, youngsters indulged in watermelon whether they liked the taste or not because seeds made it fun. At summer camp and in back yards there were seed spitting contests and wars where expectorated seeds served as ammunition in battles that went on till mom called us in at dusk. Of course, there was always the mischievous joy of annoying a younger sibling with a well spit seed.
From a nutritional standpoint, watermelon may be a miracle fruit. It’s loaded with vitamins A, B6 and C and with potassium. It’s rich in antioxidants that may help stave off heart attacks and carotenoids associated with cancer prevention. There are claims that watermelon can reduce airway spasms related to asthma and alleviate arthritic symptoms.
With all the good things going for it, let’s encourage kids to bite into watermelons. Forget adult convenience and put the seeds (and fun) back in the big summer fruit. Talk to your local farmer, your supermarket produce manager. Let’s get some seeded watermelons back on the shelves and let the good times roll.