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At market ... watermelon

Posted: July 16, 2009 5:35 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Long, hot summer days, help me to conjure up images from my childhood.

Most of our time was spent splashing in the backyard pool, our hair green and swimsuits threadbare come September.

In the afternoons, we'd sit around the table outside with huge crescents of watermelon in hand, the juice running in streams down to our elbows and coloring our cheeks like rouge.

Back then, the watermelons in the markets were huge and heavy and filled with hard, black seeds.

My mother would dutifully knock on them, seeking out the perfect hollow sound to determine ripeness.

We were always thrilled when they were cut open to reveal firm flesh that was deep crimson in color at its heart.

We'd munch on long slices, sitting side-by-side on the deck, spitting the seeds out onto the grass.

Now, it's nearly impossible to find watermelons with real seeds. My kids are baffled when they come across the occasional black one in theirs, and explaining how watermelons used to be (before the small, seedless variety came to be) is almost like trying to describe life before home computers, iPods or cell phones.

But fortunately for all of us, old school watermelons (and some gorgeous heirloom varieties) can still be found at our local farmers' markets and at Lombardi Ranch (which usually opens sometime in late August).

As always, fruit in season tastes best, and I never buy a watermelon in January for that very reason. In fact, the only time to enjoy them is during mid to late summer, when they are at their peak.

Their skin, which ranges in color from deep to pale green, should be smooth, with a yellow spot on the bottom where it rested as it grew on the vine.

It should sound hollow when tapped. Be sure to look out for watermelons with beautiful yellow or cream colored flesh for an unusual treat.

There are so many delicious ways to enjoy this gift of summer.

I like to blend mine into a luscious margarita or frozen lemonade, or eat it in a sweet and savory salad with mint, feta cheese and arugula.

But quite possibly my favorite thing to make with watermelon is a granita, which is kind of like a rustic, chunkier version of a sorbet.

It's a light and refreshing way to end a summer meal and is especially terrific because it doesn't require an ice cream maker.

The lemon juice cuts the sweetness of the melon and the ginger adds an intriguing touch of spice on the tongue.

Watermelon Ginger Granita
Makes 2 cups

4 C watermelon chunks,
seeded if necessary
½ C sugar
Juice from 1 lemon or
1 T ginger juice*

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13 pan and freeze for one hour.

Rake with a fork and freeze for one hour more. Rake again and return to the freezer for another hour. Rake again and serve.

*For ginger juice, grate fresh ginger onto a square of cheesecloth or paper towel using the fine side of a cheese grater.

No need to peel the skin. Wrap the grated ginger in the cloth or paper towel and squeeze the juice out into a small bowl.

For more recipes using seasonal produce, visit


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