A thirst quenching, low-calorie snack perfect for a hot day! Sweet, juicy watermelon is packed with some of the most important antioxidants in nature. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of vitamin A, notably through its concentration of beta-carotene.  Watermelon has moved up to the front of the line in recent research studies on high-lycopene foods. Lycopene is a carotenoid phytonutrient that's especially important for our cardiovascular health, and an increasing number of scientists now believe that lycopene is important for bone health as well. One cup is only 45 calories.

Watermelon season runs from May to September, but peak is mid-June to late August, making them a perfect summer choice in the northern hemisphere.

There are several schools of thought on how to select a properly ripened melon, but many have used the thumping method with great success. When thumped by flicking the middle finger off the thumb against the melon, the melon should produce a deep, rich thudding sound. The skin should be dull and slightly waxy (although many are waxed to shine), yielding only slightly to pressure, and the stem should be attached, brownish and dry. The round or oblong melon should be symmetrical without any flat sides, feeling heavy for its size. The underside where it lies on the ground should be a pale yellow color, not white or light green.

Melons will continue to ripen and soften a little at room temperature, but not much. Melons picked before their prime will never develop full flavor. Whole watermelon should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Susan Arruda