Watermelon is always a welcome treat during the summer months with its dark and light green stripes and its sweet and juicy red fruit. But without honey bees, there would be no seedless watermelons and seeded watermelons would be far less common and also misshapen and stunted. Bees have to work very hard to pollinate a seedless watermelon, making up to two-dozen pollination visits for a single fruit to form.
Watermelon is a ground-vine flowering plant in the Cucurbit family that also includes other summer favorites like cucumbers, squash, gourds and other melons. Surprisingly, it is believed to have originated thousands of years ago in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa. European explorers brought the plant to America in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the European settlers came in the 17th century that it was more widely grown in the new world.
Despite its reputation of being, “mostly water” (which is true by the way – coming in at about 92% water) watermelon is a super food, packed with vitamins and minerals. They are a very good source of antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber. Its signature bright color indicates that watermelon is rich in disease fighting and health promoting phytochemicals such as anthocyanins and lycopene.
And when you’re thinking about what to eat after an intense summer workout or a day spent outdoors in the heat, slice up a watermelon to enjoy. It helps you rehydrate after exercise due to its high water content and electrolytes (both sodium and potassium). Its vitamin B6 also helps restore depleted energy levels.
Given how amazing watermelons are, you don’t want to be disappointed when you cut one open only to realize it’s under ripe or even worse, mealy and tasteless. Properly harvested watermelons are picked when ripe, so it’s best to buy one as close to the source as possible like your local farmer’s market or roadside fruit stand. They will not ripen once off the vine, so flavor and texture will not get better once you bring it home. Unfortunately, many watermelons bought at grocery stores are picked either too early or too late, but there are ways to check to see if a watermelon is in optimal shape:
- If possible, hold a whole watermelon in your arms. Chose one that is firm and symmetrical in shape. It should not have any soft spots, deep dents, or cuts.
- It should feel “heavy” as it is mostly water and not have any hollow spots, which you can check by knocking on the rind in various locations.
- The watermelon should have a uniform appearance and the only whitish-yellowish spot it should have is on the bottom of the fruit where it grew on the ground.
- The watermelon should smell sweetly fresh and not have a strong odor (which suggests that it is over ripe).
One of Bee America’s favorite watermelon recipes is Watermelon Honey Lemonade. It’s super easy to make and extremely delicious on a hot day.
Honey Watermelon Lemonade
6 cups seedless watermelon (rind removed)
Zest from one lemon
Juice from two lemons
½ cup of Bee America Orange Blossom Honey
Fresh mint, lime slices and ice for serving
Place watermelon, lemon zest, lemon juice and honey in a blender and mix on a high setting until smooth. Pour over ice and add mint and lime for a garnish.