Watermelon has always been an icon of summer.
Served at picnics, backyard barbecues and patio parties, the seed-speckled red flesh is synonymous with thirst-quenching relief from the scorching heat. Although cut-up cubes have become a year-round staple of supermarket salad bars, the fruit is at its peak from mid-June to late August.
While watermelon is rarely thought of as a nutritional powerhouse, the National Watermelon Promotion Board (www.watermelon.org) has begun to describe its star client as so packed with the good stuff that it is “practically a multivitamin unto itself.” Fat-free and low in calories, watermelon is a fair-to-good source of vitamins A, B6 and C; thiamine; and potassium, a mineral essential to water balance in the body.
The watermelon marketing gurus have also been quick to tout their boy as the “lycopene leader” after studies revealed it contains plenty of lycopene, a carotenoid pigment that gives watermelon its red hue. Lycopene has been linked to reduced risk of heart attack and certain cancers.
The watermelon board also has funded some studies by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service looking into watermelon’s levels of lycopene: 1 1/2 cups of ripe, red watermelon contains 9 to 13 milligrams of lycopene. That’s about 40 percent more than raw tomatoes, which were previously thought to be the leading fruit or vegetable source.
Now agricultural researchers are studying just how available lycopene in watermelon is to the body and how growing conditions and seed varieties may affect the final nutrient content.
The Star’s Frozen Watermelon Lemonade combines the flavors of watermelon, lemon, raspberry and strawberry to create an outrageously delicious way to tame the summer rays. The “lemonade” can be served as a slushy or a more elegant sorbet. And, we must warn you, our taste testers went wild over this one, so try it soon and enjoy all summer long.