There’s no stopping the summer, but you can draw some cold comfort in that crisp slice of watermelon. With 92% water and 6% sugar, the deliciously sweet and thirst-quenching fruit is the best way to fight the heat.
The watermelon is native to Africa; it seems to have been cultivated first in the Nile Valley as early as the second century BC. It travelled to America in the 16th century, possibly through African slaves who, along with European colonizers, introduced it to many parts of the world, including India.
The result is a repertoire of recipes that boggles the mind. The watermelon features in traditional recipes in cuisines in different parts of the world: It is the Lubenica Slatko, a citrusy preserve served in Serbian ceremonies; and the honey and sesame-seed infused watermelon delight in the Cyclades Islands of Greece. The Italians keep it simple with the Agua Fresca de Sandia (a fresh watermelon drink), and the Tonga archipelago in the South Pacific blends it with coconuts to make the Otai drink. Closer to its birthplace, in South Africa, they make a preserve out of it. The Chinese elegantly cut it into tiny balls, dip it in ginger wine and serve it as dessert.
Red goodness: The summer salad with tomato is good for the heart.
In India it’s blended into smoothies, shaken into cocktails, coupled with spices and curried, chopped and put into salads. Eating it raw is an option you shouldn’t need much convincing about, and we’re giving you a recipe that’ll give it a gourmet twist.
Watermelon is fat-free and rich in the B vitamins that are energy producing.
RICH IN VITAMINS
It’s a good source of vitamins B6, B1, C and A.
Watermelon rind is sometimes used as a vegetable. In China, it is stir-fried, stewed, and pickled.
Watermelon is rich in beta carotene, an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease.
EAT IT THIS WAY
Pan Seared Watermelon with Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Salsa
• 400g watermelon (cubes)
• 10g cherry tomatoes
• 20g imported feta cheese
• 10g olives (green and black)
• 10g brown sugar
• 15g sun-dried tomato
• 10ml olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste
• A few sprigs of parsley for garnish
Take the watermelon and cut out the skin with a sharp knife. Heat a pan on medium flame and add brown sugar. As the sugar starts to caramelize, add the cubes of watermelon, turning them on all sides to coat evenly with the caramel. For the salsa, take the sun-dried tomatoes and roughly chop them. Slice the olives and cut the cherry tomatoes into halves. Add salt and pepper and mix the above ingredients along with olive oil and feta cheese. Place the watermelon in the serving plate and put the salsa on top. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve chilled.
—Rajiv Malhotra, executive chef, Old World Hospitality.