Sparkling Watermelon Slush
Mocktail or Cocktail? It’s your choice with this recipe for a refreshing summer drink.
Enjoying sweet, ripe watermelon is truly the essence of what summer has to offer. Watermelon lovers won’t think twice about taking a big bite and letting the juice escape from the corners of their mouth and trickle down their chin. It’s part of the delicious tradition of devouring summer’s finest fruit.
Each year my granddaughter and I plant watermelon seeds in the garden with high hopes. We watch them grow, slowly. She counts the days from seed to harvest, which takes about 85 to 100 long, hot days, depending on the variety. Some years are plentiful, as the garden produces several big, fan-like, leafy plants with dark green, sweet-smelling orbs. She is always eager to check on the progress when she comes to visit. “They look ready, can we pick one now?” she asks wishfully.
Other years don’t yield ripe or even edible watermelons, and our hopes are dashed. Too much or not enough rain can affect their growth dramatically. It is a fine balance. When we are disappointed by Mother Nature and our own efforts, we set out for the farmer’s market to find a watermelon that’s ripe and juicy.
But how do you know which one (or two) to pick? Often times, the local market will have dozens of hefty striped watermelons displayed in huge overflowing bins to choose from. There are a few things to think about when selecting the perfect watermelon.
How to pick a ripe watermelon
Remember to simply use your senses: touch it, look at it, smell it and listen to it. First, pick it up. It should feel heavier than it looks. That indicates it is ripe and full of juicy flesh. Next, look at it. Check for a dark green color on the skin and a brown stem. If the stem is yellow, it hasn’t ripened fully. Also look for a yellow spot on the bottom where the watermelon touched the ground. If the spot is white, it is likely not fully ripe. Then, smell the watermelon. Lift it to your nose and smell near the stem. It should smell sweet like sugar. Last, listen to it. No, it won’t tell you it’s ripe. But you should hear a deep sounding thump when you tap it gently with your fingers.
Seedless varieties of watermelon have become popular and can be found in abundance during the summer months. Some popular seedless varieties include Harvest Moon and Ruby Red. They are usually smaller than seeded varieties and have juicy red flesh on the inside with no seeds or a few tiny white ones. They can range in weight from 4 to 22 pounds each.
If you aren’t bothered by seeds in your watermelon, then you can look for varieties like Sugar Baby and Crimson Sweet. I mean, really, you just haven’t had a complete watermelon experience until you’ve tried to spit a watermelon seed or two at a nearby target.
Once you pick the perfect watermelon and get it home, you’ll want to cut it into wedges or bite-sized chunks for all to enjoy. We can barely make it through the door before my granddaughter asks, “Can we cut it now? I just can’t wait!”
How to cut a watermelon
A sharp knife is your best friend when cutting a watermelon. Place it on a cutting board and start at the stem end and cut it in half lengthwise. Then, cut each half lengthwise again. Now you should have 4 quarters, shaped like canoes. Cut each quarter side to side into two-inch slices. You’ll have several uniform wedges, which are handy for grab-and-go eating.
If you prefer small cubes for a fruit salad or watermelon kabobs, use your knife to make cuts lengthwise from top to bottom along each quarter and then across from side to side, but not cutting through the rind. Finally, take your knife and cut between the flesh and the rind to loosen all of the chunks and drop them into a bowl. Once it is cubed, put the pieces in a large container and refrigerate. That is only if it doesn’t get eaten first.
Make a watermelon drink
One of the most refreshing ways to use watermelon is to blend and freeze it, then add some sparkling water to make a sweet frozen drink. Sparkling Watermelon Slush is a fun, fruity treat for kids or can be a bubbly summer cocktail for adults. I enjoy this with Truly Hard Seltzer, but you can add a splash of rum and ginger ale or vodka and 7-UP. This recipe is simple to make and so very versatile. Summer sippin’ at its best!