Ode to Watermelon | Deep South Magazine – Southern Food, Travel & Lit

Ode to Watermelon

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Ode to Watermelon

Our celebration of the summertime gourd in words, recipes and festivals. 

According to South Carolina’s Watermelon Board, plantation owners in the 1800s grew watermelons in the sweltering summers as a means of hydration. The pink-fleshed vegetable contains 90 percent water and also served as food, animal feed and fermentation for alcohol production. Today, the state’s watermelon harvest begins  in May and lasts through August. Other Southern states also embrace and celebrate the watermelon during the summer months. The Sugartown area of Louisiana in Beauregard Parish is famous for its melons, while the town of Mize, Mississippi, has been holding its annual Watermelon Festival for 34 years. Alabama has its own Watermelon Association, complete with a queen as its spokesperson, as does Florida. We met a representative from the National Watermelon Promotion Board at Food Blog South in Birmingham earlier this year and were inspired to create our own ode to watermelon. When a Texas poet sent in a poem about melons, we knew it was a go. Enjoy!

Melon
A poem by Gregory Luce

January in Washington:
Moving through
my workplace
I catch a scent
of watermelon
source unknown
blink and it’s Dallas
in July my grandparents’
backyard glaring
deep green Bermuda grass
brilliant at 10 a.m.
already too hot to do anything
but search for garter snakes
in the shade of the house
and scratch for worms
in the dirt next to the shed
then my grandmother
calls me in for lunch
and after it’s too hot
for even a nine-year-old
boy to play outside
so I make domino forts
and bombard them
with poker chips
then crawl onto the sofa
and read until the
cartoons come on
and finally my grandfather
gets home and it’s dinnertime
fried chicken or pork chops
with greens and potatoes
and biscuits and afterwards—
watermelon.

Gregory Luce was born in Texas and still resides below the Mason-Dixon line in Washington, D.C., where he works for the National Geographic Society. He is the author of two chapbooks, “Signs of Small Grace” and “Drinking Weather.” His poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, Northern Virginia Review, Juke Jar, Praxilla, Little Patuxent Review, Buffalo Creek Review and in the anthology, “Living in Storms.” To find out more, visit his blog or follow him on Twitter @dctexpoet. 

Watermelon Rind Pickles

8 cups water
2 Tbsp coarse salt
5 cups peeled watermelon rind (leave a thin layer of pink), cut into 1/2 x 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp colored peppercorns
8 pieces whole cloves
1/2 tsp pickling spice
2 pieces long slices fresh gingeroot

In a large pot, bring water and salt to boil over medium-high heat. Add rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain. Transfer rinds to a large metal bowl. In a saucepan, combine sugar, cider vinegar, peppercorns, cloves, pickling spice and gingerroot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Pour over watermelon rinds in bowl. Place plate over top to keep rinds submerged in liquid. Cover and refrigerate for one day. Transfer to a glass jar and keep sealed in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Makes about 4 cups.

Pink Watermelon Chardonnay Sparklers

1/3 glass watermelon puree, chilled*
1/3 glass Chardonnay, chilled
1/3 glass sparkling water, chilled
1 watermelon ball

Combine ingredients in a wine glass and serve immediately. Serves 1.

*To make the watermelon puree, remove seeds from fresh watermelon and cut into large chunks. Place in a blender and process until smooth and well pureed.

Watermelon Glazed Mini Barbecued Meatballs

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
24-36 frozen, prepared mini meatballs
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1 cup watermelon puree* (see above)

Heat the oil in a large heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat or electric skillet set on 325 degrees. Sauté the mini meatballs until browned and hot. Reduce heat to low. Mix together the barbecue sauce and watermelon puree. Pour over the meatballs and simmer for a few minutes. Serve hot. Serves 6-8.

BLWT Sandwich

2 thick slices of bread (your choice), toasted
2 Tbsp pesto sauce
2 slices cheddar cheese
1 2/3-inch thick slice seedless watermelon, about the same size as the bread
2 thin slices of tomato
4 slices cooked crisp bacon
2 butter lettuce leaves

Spread the pesto over one side of each slice of toast. On one slice of toast, stack the cheese, watermelon, tomato, bacon and lettuce on top of pesto. Place the other slice of toast, pesto side down, on top of the lettuce. Cut in half and enjoy. Serves 1.

All recipes from the National Watermelon Promotion Board. For more, click here, and for Southern Living’s “22 Best Watermelon Recipes,” click here

Watermelon Festivals

Carytown Watermelon Festival – August 5 in Richmond, Virginia

DeLeon Peach & Melon Festival – August 7-11 in De Leon, Texas

6th Annual Watermelon Festival - August 9 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

Hope Watermelon Festival – August 9-11 in Hope, Arkansas

Cave City Watermelon Festival – August 9-11 in Cave City, Arkansas

Franklin County Watermelon Festival – August 17-18 in Russellville, Alabama

Winterville Watermelon Festival – August 22-25 in Winterville, North Carolina

Yoakum County Watermelon Roundup – September 1 in Plains, Texas

Monroe County Watermelon Festival – September 1 in Tomkinsville, Kentucky

Photo credits: All photos, except the Winterville Watermelon Festival logo, courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

 

Related Content: 

Melon

South’s Best Watermelon Festivals

 

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4 Comments

  1. Irene Lahtam 13:56, Aug 03, 2012

    YES to watermelon and this lovely poem about watermelon! Thanks also for the recipes. Good stuff!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Pamela Hall 10:07, Oct 26, 2012

    Watermelon is my favorite food.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Emkay 03:20, Oct 23, 2014

    Winterville Watermelon Festival is located in Winterville, NORTH CAROLINA not SC!!!

    Reply to this comment

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