The food of angels

As summer draws to a close, many of us will be racing to grab one more moment in the sun or one more taste of the season.

Here in the Okanagan there are many local summer flavours, but the quintessential flavour of summer across the world for thousands of years has been the watermelon.

Did you know watermelon is one of the oldest fruits in the world? Its origins are in Africa, where it grows wild still today in some places. Seeds were found in King Tut’s tomb. 

The Egyptians cultivated watermelons and worked to improve the taste, but its water content was what made it useful for the Pharaohs to have on their journey to the afterlife.

Since I have given you a few trivia tidbits, here is a bit more to chew on: watermelons started out yellow, and gradually became red as they were bred for a sweeter taste. And just so you can really dazzle the folks at the water cooler, the gene for sweetness is paired with the one for red colour.

The wild ancestor of the watermelon we know today did have a more bitter flavour and a harder rind. They had to be pummelled to release their water content; today a sharp knife will slice into a modern specimen.

The African melons were transported and traded because they were natural water canteens, and they eventually made their way to the Mediterranean around the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Those cultures not only enjoyed the taste of watermelon, they lauded its benefits.

Greek physicians recognized healing properties in this fruit: Hippocrates recommended children with heat stroke have cool, wet watermelon rinds placed on their heads. Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder included watermelon as an effective cooling food in his encyclopedia published in the first century.

Nowadays we have recognized many more benefits from consuming watermelon, beyond the sheer joy of biting into a wedge and spitting the seeds into the grass.

Get ready to blow your mind with how many reasons I can give you:

  • Watermelon has more lycopene than any other fruit or veggie. This antioxidant may have positive effects in reducing our risk for cancer and diabetes.
  • It also contains an amino acid, citrulline, which helps blood move through your body and can lower your blood pressure.
  • One medium slice of watermelon gives you 10% of your daily vitamin A dose – good for your eyes, supports your immune system and your bone health.
  • Its high water content (92%) helps us stay hydrated, and the potassium it contains makes it a good choice for a gym snack. Watermelon is a natural electrolyte.
  • Watermelon has a lower calorie count than many snacks, making it a healthy snack. One cup of watermelon has only 45 calories, versus the 300 calories in one cup of ice cream.
  • The soft flesh of watermelon is easy to digest, even for those with many gut issues. 
  • Most watermelons today are seedless, but the seeds do contain nutrients so there is no need to worry if you swallow one.

“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat,” said Mark Twain.

Obviously, he was talking about the modern version. I don’t know if it was divine intervention that made watermelon such a healthy and delicious food. I do know it makes me stop and smile every time I bite into a slice.

In closing, I will confirm one last fact: contrary to what my Grampa and many other elders have said over the years, swallowed seeds cannot grow in your tummy. Just in case you were wondering. 

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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