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Florida Produce: Watermelon

April 13, 2010

This summer treat is just about to come in season. Florida watermelons are grown in the western parts of the state – from north Collier County to Columbia County – watermelon from Florida is available from late march until mid-July. The peak production time is in May and early June.

How to buy:
The exterior of a ripe watermelon should be a smooth, waxy green, with or without stripes. Watermelons will not ripen after they are picked, so it is important to select a ripe watermelon at the market. Ripe watermelons have a yellow or cream-yellow “ground spot” in the place the melon rested on the soil. If this spot is green or white, the watermelon is probably not ripe.  If the watermelon has been cut, choose one with a bright, crisp, even-colored flesh.

Tips for storage:
Whole melons will keep in the refrigerator for no longer than a week. Once cut, they should be kept refrigerated and covered with plastic wrap.

Cooking tips:
Before cutting your watermelon, be sure to wipe it with a clean cloth and light soapy water. Every part of the watermelon is edible, including the rind and the seeds. The fiber-rich rind can be pickled, candied or turned into jam or jelly. The seeds are highly nutritious, packed with protein, vitamin E and potassium, and make a healthy, tasty snack if roasted in a low oven and salted.

Flavors well with:
Honey, salt, pepper, mint

This recipe from Chef Justin is simple, easy and delicious! Enjoy!

Open Face Watermelon Sandwiches
Yield 4 Servings

Ingredients
1/4 medium-sized Florida watermelon, seeds and rind removed
1 handful fresh Florida mint leaves, chopped
8 ounces goat cheese
1/2 loaf of your favorite crusty bread, sliced thin
Olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Crumble chilled goat cheese into a small bowl. Lightly mix cheese and chopped mint.  Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.

Cut bread into 8 small slices and drizzle with olive oil.  Toast bread slices until golden brown and crispy on top. Let bread cool slightly.

Spread cheese mixture on the top of each slice of bread. Cut watermelon slices into fun shapes and layer watermelon on top of cheese. Lightly season the top of the sandwiches with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.

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