Once at Walmart, I ran into a man who was an eccentric health nut. He was talking to strangers about fruits and vegetables, so of course I had to talk with them (that’s my job, I guess).
We talked about lots of random things, but he shared with me a tip about identifying a good watermelon. He said, don’t bother thumping the watermelon or smelling the top of it. That won’t help at all. The key is to buy the watermelon in July. That’s when the highest number of watermelons are at their ripest. Timing, not appearance was the key to determining ripeness.
Was he right? Who knows? But it sticks in my mind.
In Albania I used to buy a watermelon every day or every other day. Albania had special insects that looked like honeybees which feasted on these things. You always had to shoo them away if an open watermelon were around. You never completely finished a watermelon (even in Albania). The refrigerators weren’t even big enough to save leftovers. Luckily, watermelons were cheap and plentiful. When Peace Corps volunteers were waiting around at their training site (trying not to deydrate), someone would appear with a watermelon and a knife, and suddenly the training yard became a mini-celebration. When we were growing up, my dad used to paint a face on every watermelon he butchered. It was a silly, stupid ritual, but of course we loved it.
Watermelon sellers in Albania were particularly confident of their watermelons. They would cut out a cylinder from the top and let you taste it–just to be sure it was sweet. 9 times out of 10 it was–and if it wasn’t, then you’d essentially just wasted the man’s watermelon. The produce sellers didn’t mind though.
Often, I noticed that all sorts of animals would feast on the leftover watermelon in the trash heaps, especially cows.
Nowadays there are seedless watermelons, even watermelons which are yellow in the middle. They make a sloppy mess out of the kitchen, but that’s ok. Oh,yes, the seeds. You had to spit out the seeds and make sure you didn’t swallow any. Annoying, yes, but a small price to pay. Just once I’d love to bury a seed and watch it grow into a fat delicious mess.