We’re in the midst of summer here in Toronto, and I’m loving every minute of it. But with the warmer weather comes the need to ensure that we are upping our hydration game. One of my favourite ways is to eat your water. Yep, you heard that right, folks! Now I’m not talking about chewing on your drinks here. There are lots of fantastic fruits and vegetables chock-full of water. And one of them that really stands out for me is watermelon.
Watermelon is 92% water… I mean it’s in the freakin’ name! It also contains high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which can help to lower the risk of certain types of cancers, reduce lipid oxidation which is damage to fat cells causing inflammation and disease, and help to prevent macular degeneration disease which can lead to blindness… and much more! Studies have shown how it can help to lower your LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), which is the “bad” kind, leading to clogged arteries and eventually, to heart disease.
It’s also an excellent source of an amino acid (which are the building blocks of protein) called citrulline. This bad boy helps the muscles and joints during sports recovery. Now, this water-filled fruit also contains other vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, B1, B6, and A! The skin of the fruit itself contains chlorophyll. For some reason, every time I hear that word, my mind goes right to The Simpsons – “Chlorophyll, more like borophyll!” But they’re so wrong with that one. Chlorophyll is a lot of fun cause it’s the blood of the plant, which is super nourishing for our own blood cells, helps to reduce inflammation and is super detoxifying.
Did you know that 98% of all the watermelons sold in Canada come from the US? We just don’t have a hot enough climate to get it early on, although locally grown is usually available for a short time later in the summer season. But, Canadians just love watermelon! And due to our short local season, we have to import most of it from the States. Each year we (as Canadians) buy over 300 million pounds of US watermelon! Holy smokes – that’s pretty awesome.
Just a quick note, since food waste is a pretty major issue. To prepare watermelon before consuming, wash it in clean, running water. Use clean knives and cutting surfaces (pretty darn obvious, right?!). You can store uncut watermelon at room temperature for 7-10 days. Once it’s cut, it can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an air-tight sealed container or in plastic (or more environmentally-conscious alternative). It can also be frozen – but more on that later!
I feel like watermelon and summer are synonymous. What better way to quench your thirst than with some fruit filled with added benefits – plus it’s freakin’ delicious. Now, although there are lots of great recipes on Watermelon.org, I want to give you some of my favourite ways to use this beautiful fruit.
We often think about fruits as a sweet treat. And although this is definitely one great way to eat it, I want you to think outside of the box a bit with this one. You might not believe it, and I’ll expand on it a bit more later, but the rind is super versatile and can be enjoyed in coleslaw, or stir-fry; alternatively preserved as pickles, jerky or kimchi. I also love it used in this Traditional Indian Curry Dish!
As for the flesh, some of my favourite ways to use it in a savoury dish are grilled on the bbq, tossed into salads, or even added to soups or sauces. I love it with meat dishes, in tacos and on burgers. One of my good friends makes a salad with watermelon, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes and hot peppers… oh my! Just add in a little bit of olive oil, pepper and sea salt and toss… okay now I’m hungry. Even alone, you can take watermelon and sprinkle it with a squeze of lime and some salt and it’s pretty darn tasty. And that’s not even mentioning all of the delicious cocktails there are out there. Okay, I’m getting a bit excited!
So I know I mentioned this above and you might even be thinking – why would I want to eat the rind, Catherine? Who even does that? Well, like I said before, there are definitely some health benefits to consuming it. It’s just all about finding unique and tasty ways to incorporate it into your dishes. Also, lowering overall food waste is definitely an added bonus! Here are a couple of great ways to use the rind:
- Grate it and add it to salads or coleslaws
- In sweet jams or spicy chutneys
- Chopped and added to fresh salsa
- Throw it whole into your smoothies or juices
- Pickle it
Since this tasty treat is 92% water, it freezes pretty darn well. You can blend this bad boy up and add it to an ice cube tray, to be frozen and then thrown into sauces, smoothies, or even just directly into your water! In the summer, I also love making it into popsicles, sorbets or ice cream. Frozen and then puréed, it pairs really well with coconut milk and pineapple, for a fresh take on a pina colada or added to a mojito with some lime and mint. Just get creative!
Now, not all watermelons have seeds, and this is all due to their type. If you do find one that has not been cross-pollenated to eliminate the seeds through a natural agricultural production method (just a quick note, this is not done through GMO methods), make sure to keep those seeds – don’t throw them away or spit them out! The seeds are actually full of iron, protein, magnesium and B vitamins – just to name a few. So, what do you do with them exactly? Toast, dehydrate or soak ‘em.
Toasted Watermelon Seeds
Pat them dry, lay them out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle on some spices like cinnamon or ginger and roast them on lowest heat until golden brown (look up the timing). Add them to your trail mix or on top of cereal.
For savoury – using small amount of olive oil & sea salt. Add them to your salads or as a snack.
Dry them or dehydrate them, put them into a pepper grinder and grind them onto salads or vegetables.
Soak them overnight and blend them in your food processor along with other nuts and seeds making a nut butter or paste.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you just rub a whole lotta watermelon all over your face – although I’m sure that would be great. And I won’t pretend that I haven’t rubbed random foods on my face or hair as a part of my hippy beauty routine. But, this time I’m actually talking about a recipe I featured on CTV Ottawa Morning Live last year. Looking to switch things up and try some DIY beauty with benefits? Look no further!
Homemade Hydrating Watermelon & Honey Face Mask
One small slice of watermelon (with the skin and all), blended to make about 1/4 cup liquid
One tablespoon of honey (preferably Manuka, or raw local)
1/4 cup (or about 2tbsp) plain organic yogurt
Mix all ingredients together (it will be very liquidy and that’s okay) and apply with a cotton ball all over a cleansed face. Leave on for about 15 minutes, then rinse with warm, then cold water. Follow up with your favourite moisturizer.
Options to switch it up would be to replace yogurt with coconut oil & add an essential oil – as long as it’s one that is safe for topical use. You can also add sugar for a scrub, oats or even turmeric!
Have fun and be sure to #UseTheWholeWatermelon this summer!
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Catherine Sugrue, CNP
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Photos by Watermelon Board