We’ve been thinking about (and eating) watermelon since it was warm enough to sit poolside. But August 3 is National Watermelon Day, and you’ll actually have an excuse to eat all the melon your heart desires.
While few things are better than a sweet, juicy, perfectly crisp slice of watermelon, there’s also nothing worse than bringing home a melon completely lacking in sweetness and crunch. However, with the help of Jon Katz, executive chef at Tarry Market in Port Chester, you’ll never pick a bad watermelon again. Katz gave us a few tips for picking the best watermelon, which can also be used for most fruits and other melons.
The first indication of a great watermelon, Katz explains, is its weight. “When you pick it up, you should be like, ‘whoa, that’s heavier than I thought it would be,’” he says. “That means that it’s going to be really juicy when you bite into it.”
Do you ever see people knocking on watermelons in grocery stores? That’s because a juicy watermelon is determined not just by size, but also by sound. It should have a hollow sound when tapped, almost like a slight echo, Katz says. And if you happen to see a dull spot on one side, don’t be wary—that spot was left from the watermelon resting on the ground, meaning that it grew heavy while still on the vine and was picked at the peak of ripeness. This is more common at farmers’ markets than grocery stores, and watermelon lovers can look forward to seeing plenty of melons at their local markets during the month of August.
Finally, Katz explains, resist the urge to eat your watermelon the same day; instead, let it ripen on your windowsill for at least a day or two before consumption. “Remember—if farmers picked all their fruit when it was perfectly ripe, lots of it would either rot or get damaged before you were able to take it home and enjoy it,” he says. Moral of the story: plan ahead when buying your watermelon—or any fruit, for that matter.
While watermelon is perfectly enjoyed by the slice, there are plenty of ways to use the melon in savory combinations for refreshing twists on traditional dishes. Try Tarry Market’s recipe for watermelon gazpacho: cool and sweet, with a spicy kick.
Recipe Courtesy of Tarry Market in Port Chester
At Tarry Market we have these amazing Calabrian chiles that are just spicy enough to make you reconsider eating one more. They come packed in oil and the oil takes on the flavor of the chiles. It’s spicy, so just use a little bit. It goes really well with the sweet watermelon and the fatty saltiness of the feta. If you are lucky enough to have nicely aged balsamic vinegar on hand, drizzle just a bit on top at the last second.
1 large heirloom tomato, chopped
½ English cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 cups diced watermelon
2 tbsp chopped dill
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Calabrian chile oil (optional)
Aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
Purée tomato, cucumber, and half the watermelon in a blender. Add dill, olive oil, and vinegar and pulse until smooth. Season with salt. Chill the soup for at least 2 hours. Pour into chilled bowls. Garnish with remaining watermelon, crumbled feta cheese, and basil leaves.