Where is your ideal setting for enjoying a cold slice of watermelon? Mine is along our private sand bar on the Black Warrior River, just down the bluff from where we grow them. We swim and then take a break to munch on slices of melon, spitting the seeds out. Once satiated, we swim again. Each year, we plant a melon patch on this bank, simply by spitting out the seeds.
My second favorite spot is on the front steps of our home. As I begin to cut a melon, it is so ripe that the knife barely touches the rind and it splits open. I arrange each piece on a platter, and tell the whole family to come outside. We often eat watermelon outside because it can be a messy snack and because then we can spit the seeds and we may have the opportunity to catch up with our neighbors. By stepping out into the thick air of an Alabama summer afternoon, we are embracing that moment, that season, and elevating it with watermelon, turning a typical summer day into a celebration.
It was in that setting that I offered a slice to our 6-year-old neighbor. They struggled with it for a while before I realized that they didn’t know how to eat watermelon with seeds in it. From there I continued to see signs that this iconic symbol of summer may be fading away. The next day, I walked into a grocery store and was immediately face-to-face with a full grown woman dressed as a slice of watermelon, covered in the black, teardrop shaped seeds, yet serving samples of seedless watermelon.
enjoying a Blacktail Mountain
Seedless watermelons are more common in grocery stores, but almost all the melons being sold at a farmer's market will have seeds. We don't grow seedless watermelons for a few reasons. The seedless watermelon seeds cost 50 cents per seed, which is quite expensive as commercial seeds go. Then you have to spray the seedlings with a crocus-derived alkaline, called colchicine, commonly used to treat gout. You must then plant all of your watermelons and, for every 2 or 3 rows of those, you must also plant a row of melon plants just for pollinating. I don't want to get too deep into the science of this here, but basically, the seedless watermelons are a triploid, carry 3 chromosomes instead of 2 and as a result when they are fertilized, the seeds fail to mature.
If you want to go deeper on this subject, here is a great article:
or an easy-to-digest video here:
picture from a seed catalog, it looks like something is missing
The parts around the seeds are always my favorite. It seems to me that the melon ripens up the most right around those seeds.
close up of a Yellow Doll
If we do need to eat the melon indoors, I'll cut it into chunks by finding the areas with the least amount of seeds first. Typically, around the rind there are some large seedless areas and then again in the center. The seeds generally form a ring in the middle. When I am left with the middle parts, full of seeds, I may pick them out or I may just eat that part right away (it's the best!). Sometimes I will send the seedy parts through a sieve and create watermelon juice to enjoy on its own or turn into a margarita!
it gets a little messy sometimes
Just today, a melon split open in the packing shed. It was fresh from the walk-in and very chilled. I had a million things to be doing at that moment, but I could not resist that bright, red sweetness calling to me from where it sat on a stainless steel table and I am so glad that I listened. I ate it and had a mouth full of seeds. I shot them out like automatic ammunition. As soon as I had that first bite, I thought to myself I needed that. Not only did I need the hydrating properties (watermelons are 92%) water, but also the vitamins it is packed with, all wrapped up in a satisfying snack.
It was the sweetness of summer, concentrated and cooled.
have your own seed spitting contest, all you need is a melon and , if you have it on hand, some sidewalk chalk
Spit seeds, see whose goes the farthest, and invite neighbors over to join in. Teach a kid the joys of watermelon seed spitting, revel in the heat of summer and the delicious flavor that it brings. Eating watermelon is an event, not just a food. Take a moment to go slow, that is what summer is for.
NEWS FROM THE BEND
From planting time to the growing and harvesting seasons,