Make merry with watermelons

Make merry with watermelons

What makes the watermelon a universal favourite? Smruthi Marathe has an explanation.

Native to Southern Africa, and believed to be wild in its growing nature, watermelon is one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the world.

This scrumptious fruit is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin and other vining plant family. The great diversity of the fruit that grows in these forests has confirmed its origin. In India, it is found in three varieties — sweet, bland and bitter.

Watermelons have been known to be cultivated in the Nile Valley during the Egyptian civilisation. Seeds of the fruit have been found in the pyramids of the Egyptian Pharoah, Tutankhamun. China is presently the largest producer of watermelon. There are over 1, 200 varieties of watermelon, with about 50 varieties most-commonly grown in the United States and Mexico.

Considered the best summer fruit, this sweet and watery fruit can not only quench thirst, but also load our body with lots of nutrition. The fruit is loaded with water, sugar and some essential nutrients, making it a universally loved food item!

By nutrition, 100 grams of this fruit gives only 30 kilo calories of energy, which is why it is a low-calorie fruit and preferred by those who want to lose weight.  Ninety per cent of the fruit is water and it is also a very good source of potassium, Vitamin C and beta carotene. A special content of the red, fleshy pulp is lycopene which is an anti oxidant. This fruit has a lot of health benefits such as:

*It is a mild diuretic. The cooling and anti-inflammatory properties make it the best fruit to be consumed during a urinary infection.

*Cittrulin, which is found in the rind of the fruit, is said to stimulate nitric oxide production in the blood vessels,thus preventing vessel disease.

*Beta carotene has been proved to play a role in preventing the development of colonic cancer.

*Lycopene, beta carotene and Vitamin C are potent anti-oxidants that protect the cells of the body from chemical injury and also delays ageing.

*The fruit is rapidly digested in the body and is low in calories. It can be consumed to promote weight loss.

*It also has moderate amounts of calcium and magnesium.

The fruit is best consumed chilled. And for those who fear catching a cold, the fruit can be eaten by sprinkling a pinch of salt and pepper powder on the pieces. The rind of the fruit is used to make dry curries in South India. Pieces of the pulp can be used in a variety of salads to make them colourful as well as crisp.

When making a juice, avoid adding sugar to it so that the flavour of the fruit is retained and you are away from extra calories.