by Ray Linville | Photography by Diana Matthews
Finally, June has arrived. Nothing says summer is here like flipping the kitchen calendar to June.
“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June,” said Al Bernstein, TV and radio personality. This month is remarkably rich with fresh fruits and vegetables.
My favorite produce in June is local watermelons, although I don’t think that the juiciest arrives on the market until July and August. At least we no longer depend on other states or even foreign countries to provide them.
Once watermelons arrived on store shelves when I was growing up, slices were always on the table as part of a meal. They are the perfect end to a supper. They are the perfect beginning, too, except once you start with the first slice, it’s hard to put anything else on your plate. My grandkids can eat and eat watermelon.
The modern shopper today seems more influenced by the size (boutiquely small and round) and variety (seedless much more popular than seeded) than where the watermelon was grown-and how far it had to travel to the store.
Fortunately, I grew up before the small, round and seedless watermelons were hauled in from distant lands. What I ate was local and seeded-and flavorful. In fact, the bigger the melon, the more we were attracted to it, particularly when we stopped at a roadside stand for one on the way home from the beach. My brother and I would race each other to find the biggest one, and “Whoa,” he would shout as he claimed that he had won.
My dad was not the best food shopper but he knew how to thump a watermelon before picking one to buy. He always listened for a hollow bass sound.
Eating watermelons is a great way to stay hydrated on hot June days-they are more than 91 percent water. As important as avoiding dehydration is, the best value of eating watermelons is the fun they provide, but only if they are seeded. Who hasn’t sat at the family dinner table and spit a watermelon seed at a sibling when parents weren’t watching? The older we got, the more accurate and longer shots we could make. Even today, my grandkids seem to have inherited great skills for long shots.
What this area needs is a good, old-fashioned watermelon seed-spitting contest! I am very jealous about the Watermelon Thump, a four-day festival in Luling, Texas.
Named for the tradition of thumping to test if a watermelon is ripe, this festival has celebrated all things watermelon each June since 1954 as more than 35,000 crowd into this small town of 5,500.
The festival’s main event is a seed-spitting contest. Honestly! The winner takes home a prize of $500. The record of more than 68 feet was set in 1989 and hasn’t been broken since then. I can’t even shoot half that distance.
But I’d love to enter my grandkids in that contest. They really know how to make a seed fly, particularly if a sibling is the target. It’s best, though, if my daughter-in-law is not watching.
Surely our area has competitors who could break this record-if we gave them a chance by having our own contest.
Linville writes about local connections to Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org