Have you recently noticed that there have been many sales on watermelon at your local grocery store and that farmers’ markets and roadside stands have an abundant supply? That is because watermelon and July go together like peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs. This cool and refreshing fruit is now in season locally.

Whether you like to spit seeds or prefer the seedless variety, this fruit is a healthy addition to your plate. Naturally low in sodium and calories, watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin A and can help keep you hydrated. To select the best watermelon look for one that is heavy for it’s size, has uniform shape, and a dark, dull green color. A yellow spot on one side means that the fruit has been given time to ripen in the field, and develop flavor.

Do not forget to give your watermelon a good rinse under cool water before slicing. Putting a knife through that melon can carry all of the bacteria from the rind and spread it onto the fruit. Since watermelon is not usually cooked, that means that bacteria will not be killed and you have a chance of getting a foodborne illness. Remember to do this with your cantaloupe and other melons too.

Too much watermelon? Try serving watermelon in different ways like in a melon salad, or even in, or alongside, chicken salad. Watermelon should be refrigerated after being cut and can be frozen too. Use chunks of frozen watermelon in smoothies and other drinks.

Here is a recipe for a bubbly, refreshing watermelon drink from Fresh From Florida to serve at your July picnic.

Florida Watermelon Fizz

INGREDIENTS: 5 cups Florida watermelon (seeded and cubed) Florida honey, to taste 2 cups sparkling water 1 lemon, juiced Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

PREPARATION: Add watermelon, honey, and lemon juice to a blender and process until smooth. Strain puree through a fine sieve or strainer. Fill 4 glasses with ice. Evenly distribute the strained juice into each glass. Top each glass with sparkling water and stir once. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

For more information, contact me at 850-612-9700 or jbreslawski@ufl.edu. 

Jill Breslawski is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.