Health From the Vine
Prevent birth defects.
Reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Keep blood pressure low.
Summer picnics don't really come alive until the barbecue is cold and the potato salad has been put away.
That's when it's time to pick up a knife and cut into the tough rind of an ice-cold, jumbo fruit, revealing the sweet red flesh within.
There's always something exciting about cutting open a crenshaw, or honeydew.
For one thing, they come encased in protective rinds, so what's inside always comes as a surprise.
And even before you cut, most will whet your appetite by releasing a rich, penetrating scent, which is why they're sometimes called the "perfumy fruits."
Here's another reason they're marvelous.
Researchers have found that they contain a number of substances that are very good for your health.
Both watermelons and muskmelons, which include honeydews, crenshaws, and a few other, provide folate, a B vitamin that has been shown to lower the risks of birth defects and heart disease.
They also contain potassium, which is essential for keeping blood pressure at healthy levels.
And because they're low in calories and fat, they're the perfect food for waist-watchers.
Cantaloupes are especially healthful, and they contain certain nutrients that others don't.
So, in our book, they deserve "super-fruit" status.
There's a good chance that whoever invented the wheel was a fan of watermelons.
As you've probably noticed, the smooth, cylindrical shape gives it a tendency to roll, usually off a table or the seat of your car, creating instant puree.
There's another problem with the shape though.
Since they can't be stacked, they take a lot of room to store, which is expensive for the growers.
In Japan, where space is at a premium, growers have hit upon an ingenious solution: grow them square.
When they're young and still on the vine, Japanese growers sometimes place them in boxes.
As they grow to fit the space within the box, they develop flat bottoms and sides, making them perfect for stacking.
Square varieties aren't yet available in this country, but just for fun, if you have a backyard garden, you may want to try growing your own.
Melons For Moms
In what has been called one of the most critical discoveries of the twentieth century, researchers found that if all women of childbearing age consumed at least 400 micrograms of folate a day, the incidence of brain and spinal cord birth defects (called neural tube defects) could be cut in half or even more.
For a long time, doctors weren't sure what folate did.
They suspected that it played a role in preventing birth defects, but there wasn't strong evidence one way or the other.
Then a study of almost 4,000 mothers revealed that those who got enough folate were 60 percent less likely to have children with brain and spinal cord defects than women who got smaller amounts.
Folate, a B vitamin, is an essential ingredient when cells are dividing rapidly.
It serves as the shuttle bus that carries fragments of proteins.
When folate levels are low, these fragments, lacking transportation, may be left behind.
As a result, the newly forming cells may have defects that can lead to birth defects.
(Later in life, the same problem can lead to cellular changes that could lead to cancer.)
So before you start shopping for pickles, put a few melons in your cart because they're very good sources of folate.
A cup of honeydew, for example, contains 11 micrograms of folate, 3 percent of the Daily Value (DV).
The Casaba variety are even better, with the same cup providing 29 micrograms of folate, 7 percent of the DV.
If 7 percent doesn't sound like a lot, remember that just a cup is the equivalent of about five good bites.
Most people eat two or more cups at a time, making it a very good folate find.
The Fiber Fix
One thing that your digestive tract needs is a steady supply of dietary fiber.
Fiber is so important, in fact, that people who don't get enough have higher risks for cancer as well as for a variety of digestive problems.
The type of fiber that is found in these fruits, called soluble fiber, is tremendously important for helping to keep the colon healthy.
Because soluble fiber absorbs water as it move through the digestive tract, it causes stools to get heavier and larger.
As a result, they move more quickly through the intestine, reducing the amount of time that harmful substances in the stool are in contact with the colon wall.
Getting more fiber can reduce the number of polyps in the gastrointestinal tract and also the risk of colon cancer.
All contain some fiber, although honeydews beat out watermelon by quite a bit.
Half a honeydew has nearly 3 grams of fiber, 12 % of the daily value.
In The Kitchen
Unlike most fruits and vegetables, which are easy to check for ripeness, melons hide their succulence or their toughness behind a protective rind.
To get the best taste every time, here are a few tips you may want to try.
Check the bottom.
A watermelon that's pale-yellow or beige on the bottom was allowed to ripen on the vine and will probably be at the peak of freshness.
If the color is uniform, however, it may have been picked early and won't deliver its full flavor.
Take a sniff.
Most of these super fruits release a rich, fragrant odor when they're fully ripe.
If you can't smell it in the store, don't take it home.
Check the stem.
When muskmelons are allowed to ripen in the field, the fruit slips off the vine, leaving the stem behind.
So if you see one with the stem attached, you'll know that it was picked early and isn't fully ripe.
It's okay, though, if watermelons still have their stems.
Slap it silly.
Although thumping is the time-honored method for testing a watermelon's ripeness, a slap actually works better.
If it sounds hollow rather than solid, it's ready to go.
More = Less
If you have high blood pressure, you're probably already getting less salt and more minerals in your diet.
It's a good idea to get more of these fruits as well.
All, especially honeydews and crenshaws, are good sources of potassium, which is perhaps the most important mineral for keeping blood pressure down.
The potassium acts as a natural diuretic, removing excess fluids from the body.
This is important because when fluid levels are high, blood pressure can rise. Plus, potassium keeps the artery walls relaxed.
Relaxed arterial walls do not contract as strongly as more "taut" or rigid walls.
This means that the blood pressure created with each heartbeat is not as great.
The result, of course, is lower blood pressure-which can reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other serious conditions.
People with high blood pressure are often advised to get at least the DV of 3,500 milligrams of potassium a day.
Make it Easy.
Half a honeydew, for example, has about 1,355 milligrams of potassium, over a third of the DY.
Watermelons also contain potassium, but only about half as much as honeydews or crenshaws.
Getting the Most ~ Make it a Honey
Even though watermelon is a decent source of nutrients, it contains so much water that they're very diluted.
Ounce for ounce, honeydews have over twice the potassium and almost three times more folate.
Buy them Whole
Supermarkets often sell watermelons, honeydews, and others cut into halves or slices.
This can save space in your refrigerator, but it won't save much in the way of nutrients.
When the flesh is exposed to light, the nutrients start to break down.
So it's a good idea to buy them whole.
And once you've cut them, keep them covered in the refrigerator to prevent the vitamins from breaking down.
Keep them Cold
Folate is readily destroyed by heat, so it's important to store them whole or cut, in a cool, dark place.
Honeydew, Blueberry & Mango Salad
Honeydew, Blueberry and Mango Salad with Lime-Ginger Reduction
A lime-ginger reduction that adds a marvelous, syrupy glaze to the beautiful combination of honeydew, blueberries and mangoes.
Don’t be deceived by the obvious simplicity.
This fruit salad is seriously delicious, you should strongly consider adding this to your summer recipe line-up.
1 Tbs. grated lime zest from 4 limes (zest limes before juicing)
1 c. fresh lime juice (from the 4 grated limes and an additional 3-4 limes as needed)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Pinch table salt
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 Tbs.)
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 small honeydew melon, seeds and rinds removed, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 c.)
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 c.)
1 pint fresh blueberries
In a small, heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan, simmer the lime juice, sugar, and salt medium-high heat until syrupy, honey-colored, and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime zest, ginger, and lemon juice.
Let the mixture sit and steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer.
Combine the honeydew, mangoes and blueberries in a medium bowl; pour the warm dressing over and toss.
You can serve immediately at room temperature or as we prefer, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate up to 4 hours, and serve chilled.
A Note: Raspberry vinegar is available in some large supermarkets and would make a great dressing.
Blueberry vinegar, sold in some specialty shops, is especially good in this salad.
The juice left from marinating the salad can be served with the salad or drained and refrigerated for a yummy, refreshing drink.
Total Fat 0.2 g.,
Saturated Fat 0 g.,
Cholesterol 0 mg.,
Sodium 18 mg.,
Dietary Fiber 1.5 g.
And there ya go, everything you wanted to know about melons.Tweet
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