Food Feature: Watermelon-heads

You know who you are

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Fish are jumpin', the cotton is high and watermelon is everywhere. From supermarkets to roadside fruit stands, seeded to seedless, melons make summer life sweet. Morning and night, I eat watermelon. No kidding.

I once visited a Chinese doctor trained in the herbal arts who told me, "Eat watermelon. Eat lots of watermelon, it's good for your chi." That's all I needed to hear.

A lycopene dream
Ah, sweet vindication. I love it when science proves me right: Turns out watermelon is good for you. It's chock full of an antioxidant called lycopene, nay, it is the leader of all fruits and vegetables in lycopene content, which helps prevent cancer. And that's a good thing, because a lot of watermelon is downed at sunny cancer-causing picnics.

Pick of the crop
The National Watermelon Promotions Board at watermelon.org suggests the following for finding a choice melon.

1) Look the watermelon over, choose a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents.

2) Lift it up — the watermelon should be heavy for its size. Water accounts for most of its weight.

3) Turn it over — on the underside of the watermelon there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Put a plug in it
Some bastards want to defile the pristine flesh of watermelon with liquor. Why, oh why, would you want to mess with something that's already so perfect? But if you must rape the noble watermelon, at least use decent liquor and do it thusly:

one watermelon

1 liter of high-alcohol content vodka or grain alcohol

Cut a hole — or plug — from the side of the watermelon that's the same shape but a little smaller than the mouth of the bottle (keep the plug — do not toss!). Insert open bottle into the hole. Prop the watermelon up so that the bottle is upside down. Leave it sit for a while, and when the flask is empty, your watermelon is ready. Plan ahead, it's nice to let the melon sit for a night. If you have to carry the melon put the plug of watermelon back in the hole. Cut and eat.

Ooh, saucy! Lime and ginger drizzle
I stole this from Martha Stewart, but don't let that scare you. Just do it and thank me later. It's fast, it's easy and it's good.

Squeeze the juice of one lime, add 2 teaspoons of crushed ginger. Shake or stir. Drizzle over fresh watermelon for a brisk refreshing twist. I keep mine in a salad cruet. Note: The longer it sits, the spicier it gets.

To market, to market
In a pinch, you can get your melons at the regular grocery if you have to. But grocery-store melons always seem to have a mealy, gone-to-sugar quality about them. Give farmers markets a try and taste the difference.

ATLANTA STATE FARMERS MARKET 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, 404-675-1782. Open daily 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

BUFORD HIGHWAY FARMERS MARKET 5600 Buford Highway, Doraville. 770-455-0770. Open daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

DAVID'S PRODUCE AND COUNTRY STORE 3561 Lavista Road, Decatur. 404-325-0709. Open Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

DEKALB FARMERS MARKET 3000 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, 404-377-6400. Open daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

DUNWOODY NATURE CENTER'S FARMERS' MARKET 5343 Roberts Drive, in the ball field parking lot, 770-394-3322. Seasonal. Open the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 8:30 a.m.-noon. Haven't had watermelons yet, but look for them later in the season.

GARDEN OF EDEN PRODUCE 2324 MLK Jr. Drive, 404-696-4769. Mon-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

INTERNATIONAL FARMERS MARKET 5193 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., 770-455-1777. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

MORNINGSIDE ORGANIC FARMERS MARKET 1325 N. Highland Ave. In the parking lot. Seasonal. Open every Sat. through October from 8:30 a.m.-noon. Again, sometimes they have melons, sometimes they don't.

SWEET AUBURN CURB MARKET 209 Edgewood Ave. 404-659-1665. Open Mon.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

THAT GUY IN THE BLUE TRUCK Corner of Clifton and South Ponce de Leon. Daily. Seasonal. Catch him if you can.

UMOJA FARMERS MARKET Carver High School campus, 9 Gammon Ave. 404-622-7778. Seasonal. Thurs. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. WIC and GCCH coupons accepted.

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