Watermelon Festival set to delight Southern tastes, memories on Saturday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Regina Trosclair Charboneau laughed as she retold the story from her morning coffee club.

&uot;One of the guys was talking about, as a child, going out and stealing a watermelon out of a patch and eating the heart out of it

&uot;He said (the urge) for a little boy to steal a watermelon is just something you’re born with.&uot;

Few would argue that breaking open a lucious, juicy watermelon and savoring its sweet, red fruit is a rite of passage of sorts. And for children of all ages, summer means watermelon season.

&uot;And it’s prime time for watermelons right now,&uot; Charboneau said. &uot;They’re just wonderful and sweet.&uot;

In celebration of watermelon season, the Main Street Marketplace will host a watermelon festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Whole melons, sliced watermelon and even watermelon smoothies will be available, as well as the other fruits and produce offered at the market.

Activities, which begin at 1 p.m., include a watermelon carving contest (similar to a pumpkin carving contest) and a watermelon seed spitting contest.

&uot;We’re going to mark off the sidewalk and measure how far the children can spit the seeds,&uot; Charboneau said. Prizes for the carving contest include $100 in cash and a gift certificate to Biscuits and Blues; prizes for the seed-spitting contest will include gift certificates to McDonald’s.

The festival is part of an ongoing effort between Charboneau and the Alcorn State University agriculature department, which manages the marketplace. Working in concert with local farmers, the organizers created a schedule of festivals and activities that would highlight the produce at its peak times. Strawberry and peach festivals were a great success, and Trosclair said she expects the watermelon festival to be a success, as well.

And while sliced watermelon may be the quintessential summertime treat, the following recipes offer some interesting variations for you to try.

Watermelon Party Punch

1 large watermelon, approximately 25 pounds

1 12-ounce can frozen limeade or lemonade, thawed

1/4 cup grenadine syrup

1 or 2 32-ounce bottles lemon-lime carbonated beverage, chilled

3-4 scoops pineapple sherbert

Select a melon with a flat base. The day before serving, make sawtooth cuts to remove an 8-inch oval section from the top and set aside. Scoop out the pulp, remove the seeds, and puree the melon in a blender. Strain and pour into the melon shell. Stir in the undiluted lemonade or limeade, 2 cups of water and the syrup. Cover with the reserved lid and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, stir in a carbonated beverage until the melon is 3/4 full. Add the sherbet. Use a skewer to poke holes in the lemon large enough for drinking straws. Serve with the lid on.

Variation: Spike with vodka for an adult party.

Makes about 1 gallon

– Adapted from the Junior League Centennial Cookbook

Watermelon Poppyseed Dressing

1 3/4 cups cubed watermelon

1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Process the watermelon in a blender until smooth; combine with the gelatin in a saucepan. Let stand 1 minute. Cook over low heat, stirring until thick. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Blend well. Cover and chill for 8 hours. Serve with fruit or salad greens.

Makes 1/1/2 cups.

– Adapted from the Junior League Centennial Cookbook

Watermelon Fruit Cooler

3 cups seeded, diced watermelon

3 cups diced fresh strawberries, plus six whole small ones for garnish

2 ripe bananas, peeled and iced

1/3 cup fresh lime juice, or more to taste

1/2 cup sugar or more to taste

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

6 cups crushed ice

Working in batches, combine the fruits, 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/3 cup sugar, the condensed milk and ice in an blender and blend until smooth. Correct the flavoring, adding the lime juice or sugar as necessary. Serve immediately in tall glasses garnished with whole strawberries and straws.

Serves six.

– Adapted from The Barbecue Bible

Watermelon Salsa

4 cups seeded and diced watermelon

1/3 cup minced red onion

1/3 cup fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

In a medium nonreactive bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then serve immediately.

Serve either as a salad or as a salasa.

Adapted from &uot;Butter Beans to Blackberries&uot; by Ronnie Lundy (Recipe by Sara Gibbs).

&160;

Watermelon Ice

4 heaping cups chopped, seeded, red-ripe watermelon

2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Place the watermelon, in batches if necessary , in a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and puree. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to a day.

Freeze the puree’ in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Serve directly from the ice cream maker; the ice will be a bit soft. If you like it firmer, place it in the freezer for several hours. The flavor is best within the first couple of days.

– Adapted from American Home Cooking