This year, it seemed as if I waited so very long for summer to arrive, only to wake up one day and realize that the season is about to change again. While there are still technically five weeks of summer still to go, I know that I will wake up one day soon with cold autumn winds lightly swishing my face, and I will be surrounded by hard squashes and the scent of fall apples.
Summer might just be my favorite season. I look forward to weekend beach trips. I love the sun on my skin. I love the carefree feelings that summer brings along with the sunshine. Our days as a family are definitely less hectic when school is out. I love being able to spend lazy days with my family and unhurried evenings with later bedtimes. Near the top of my “all things summer” list are the summer crops! The ripest tomatoes, the sweetest corn, the best berries, the tastiest eggplant, the juiciest peach, the perfect watermelon…it’s quite a long list! I will surely miss these sun-kissed treats. I’m afraid I didn’t eat enough of them this year! Can I possibly wait another nine months for these summer specialties?
All these musings about the season reminded me of the time when my grandparents owned farmlands in the Philippines. My grandparents raised rice, corn, and melons, along with this chef-to-be. My childhood was rich with outdoor activities and many cousins, with whom I shared everything. It’s hard to imagine a time when children were allowed to be outdoors without adult supervision! Sunscreen wasn’t even an afterthought, let alone the priority I’ve made it for my son. By the end of every summer I had cracked, dark brown skin. It was a simpler time but probably a bit too careless. My cousins and I spent a lot of time together during the weekends at my grandparents’ house, but in the summer we had the entire season together. I remember those wonderful times: hot, humid, carefree, and full of love. We ate steamed corn, sucked on sugar cane stalks, split twin pops, shared halo-halo, roasted cashews over bonfires at night, and consumed unimaginable amounts of mangoes and watermelons. Watermelons were the best treats during those hot summer days in the tropics. I remember trekking a narrow dike to the watermelon fields with my cousins and sister, armed with a spoon in our pockets. Someone from the team would confirm that a watermelon was ready for eating by snapping their fingers on the melon’s skin with an ear pressed against the rind. We all memorized the sound that indicated the perfect ripeness. We would cut several of the watermelons from their vines, take them into our hut, and crack them open with our tiny fists. Then spoons were then taken out of our pockets, and we ate until we were full and satisfied, with sticky watermelon juice running down our chins and arms.
My 11-year old son seemed mildly amused by this story. It was way before his time, perhaps even too primitive for him to understand. After all, watermelon can now be bought pre-cut in a container (with a spoon!) at any supermarket. And seedless! It was simply a different time and place, and I was lucky enough to be there.
I like eating watermelon just as they are, but they are also great in salads and beverages.
Here are some watermelon recipes to enjoy during your carefree summer days.
Fresh Watermelon with Whipped Feta and Sumac
- 1 each watermelon peeled and cut into large cubes
- 1 cup low fat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 tsp sumac spice
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
- 1 cup sunflower seeds toasted
- sea salt to taste
- To make whipped feta: Combine yogurt, feta, and pepper in a bowl and whip with a whisk until smooth. You can also use a food processor to get a smoother texture.
- To compose salad: Place whipped feta in a large salad plate and spread throughout entire surface of the bowl. Place watermelon pieces on top of yogurt dressing. Top watermelon with sumac, mint, toasted sunflower seeds, and a touch of sea salt.
Watermelon Spritzer with Rosemary and Citrus
- 2 cups watermelon chunks seedless
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 cups white wine
- 1 cup carbonated water (or club soda)
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 1 each watermelon (or citrus) wedge for garnish
- Place watermelon chunks and sugar in a blender and process until well blended. Pass processed watermelon through a strainer. Discard watermelon pulp and place strained juice in a pitcher.
- Add wine and club soda to juice. Serve over ice and garnish with rosemary, watermelon, and citrus.