A brief history, a personal experience, an at home activity and a tasty recipe all dedicated to the fruit of summer, watermelon.

A mouth full of Watermelon; speechless.

From October 2015 through the fall of 2017 I lived and worked for the U.S. Peace Corps as an Agriculture Extension volunteer. One day as I walked through the streets of Basse, the last major town up river in The Gambia, with dust covered legs and a sandal that had just fallen apart. I limped along the road with one foot barefoot as I had my bike in tow, I was in search of a cobbler. It was hot, dry and dusty… a normal day in the dry season still a month or two before the rains would come. I loved everything about that day (maybe not totally at the time but it’s a fond memory now) including the heat, finding the person that could fix my sandal, the cold Coke I bought after and perhaps the most preeminent memory, the refreshing watermelon I purchased from a street vendor. Few foods have satisfied me like that watermelon did, a high I have been chasing ever since and helping cement watermelon as my “fruit of the summer”.

Within the family of cucumber and pumpkin lives the melon. Within the melon group, there are the muskmelon (cantaloupe and honeydew) and watermelon. Melons of all sort need a lot of water and a warm climate. Cultivated in the Nile Valley by the Egyptians as far back as 2400 BCE the watermelon is very old. Its made its way through the following centuries up until it was brought over to the new world by Spanish colonists in the 16th century. In the US our earliest record of growing watermelons is 1576 in Florida and Mississippi. Overtime, seedless watermelon varieties have developed and become the choice of many, in fact 85 percent of all watermelons sold in the U.S. are seedless. This wonder of agricultural science was developed by scientists in Japan in 1939.

The most challenging part of a watermelon, besides not eating too much and becoming ill, is choosing the best one! Here is a useful video to help you pick the right one:

Now that you’ve picked the perfect watermelon, what do you do? Well you could make it into a cake! It’s super easy, healthy, and a great way to make a dessert without the oven on a hot summer day! What you’ll need:

  • 1 whole seedless watermelon ( approx. 6 lb.)
  •  1 tub (8 oz.) Whipped Topping, thawed (Cool Whip)
  •  1 cup Sliced Almonds
  •  1 kiwi, cut lengthwise in half, then sliced crosswise
  •  3 strawberries, hulled
  •  1/3 cup raspberries
  •  1/4 cup blueberries

Directions:

  • Cut a 2-inch-thick slice from both ends of watermelon; discard trimmed slices. Stand watermelon on cutting board. Starting at the top of the melon, use a long thin sharp knife to carefully cut between the rind and fruit. Cut all around the watermelon to separate the rind from the fruit. Remove and discard the rind.
  • Pat the melon with paper towels to dry; place on a platter. Then, frost with your whipped topping.
  • Decorate the cake with the remaining ingredients to resemble the photo.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Kraft Foods

If eating the watermelon is not quite your speed? Here’s a fun Watermelon-related, indoor activity.  Make some homemade play dough and use some watermelon seeds for a great sensory and counting activity. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Vegetable oil
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Cream of tartar
  • Watermelon KOOL-AID Unsweetened Drink Mix
  • Seeds from a watermelon

For the complete directions follow the link.

Have you enjoyed an Oregon-grown melon this season? Learn more about this Oregon grown commodity including varieties, harvest procedures and more!

-Casey Blake, Washington County Programs Coordinator