Watermelon in the New Millennium
Watermelon – There was a time when people would pay steep prices for a taste of melon. Around the turn of the century, the Montreal Melon is said to have been sold in New York City for $1 per slice, what would now be the equivalent of about $24 today. Considered one of the top delicacies of the world at its time, this melon was a whopping 20 pounds and was valued for its texture and special nutmeg flavour. The heyday of the Montreal melon, however, was short lived, the farms were bought by developers and the sensitive melon was not robust enough to be grown on industrial farms. Modern technology has vastly improved the availability of melons and this is a good thing since what has remained the same is a hunger and thirst for these juicy and healthy fruits.
The watermelon was once enjoyed only in summer months and many of us can remember a time when eating it involved some oral agility- sucking the flesh of the melon while allowing the seeds to stay in the mouth was a skill that we were all motivated to learn quickly. But seed spitting competitions may soon be a thing of the past since seedless varieties are now the norm. Once viewed as a nutritionally devoid sweet treat, watermelons are now understood to be an excellent source of health-promoting phytonutrients. Lycopene, an antioxidant found in the red pigment of the watermelon is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and is linked with heart health, bone health and cancer prevention.
For many years, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon were about the only melons that were available. Now, many stores and local farmers are selling heirloom varieties, each with their own unique and subtle flavour notes. Increasingly, we see the yellow melon with its mellow honeyed flavour, the intensely sweet sugar baby melon and cantaloupe-like hami melon with its sweet and crisp flesh. Even the Montreal melon has been revived but interest in this melon ebbs and flows and many farmers have given up on growing this delicate crop. Local melons always taste best, so summer is the time to enjoy this hydrating and nutritious treat.
When I first heard of putting watermelon in gazpacho, I was reluctant but then delighted after tasting it; the melon adds a subtle sweetness to the soup that balances out the flavours.
Serves 4 appetizer-size bowls
3 medium tomatoes
1 small red onion
½ English cucumber
1 cup of watermelon
1 small clove of garlic
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp of green Tabasco Sauce or 1/2 chilli pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Juice of ½ lime
Fresh oregano (for garnishing)
Directions: Throw all ingredients in a blender and on a low setting, blend until you have an even consistency. Chill and serve garnished with oregano a drizzle of olive oil on each bowl.
Natalie Lavers is a health and wellness consultant in Montreal. She offers advice on using food and stress reduction techniques to support proper digestion and optimal health. Find out more about her and get more recipes at www.lavienourrie.com.