I love watermelon, especially once summer really arrives. The problem is, I live at a latitude 43 degrees north, with a short growing season that doesn’t favor watermelon. With most other fruits and vegetables, I try to hold out for delicious, fresh local options, but I always seem to cave in to my watermelon craving at about the time summer heat settles in for real.
A couple of days ago, I had one such powerful craving. In an effort to make one stop, rather than two, I set my sights on buying an organic watermelon at the local food coop. I don’t usually worry too much about making sure my watermelon is organic, since watermelon doesn’t carry a high risk of chemical contamination; it’s on the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15″ list. Being in one of those “just do it” states of mind, I was prepared to ignore organic watermelon’s high price I’d noted on previous shopping trips. I planned to grab my prize, pay and run.
$32.50. Yes, it’s true. That little organic watermelon was going to cost me $32.50. I’m pretty sure it was $1.99 per pound but, honestly, I tried to avoid looking at the sign. The friendly clerk, clearly more practical a person than I was in that moment, pointed the price out to me at the register. $32.50. The basketball-sized watermelon I’d grabbed almost mindlessly, had three soft spots on it, a clue that it might have been tempting shoppers for more than a few days. I support organic, and I support the coop, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay $32.50 for a watermelon. I couldn’t do it. The craving would have to wait.
Most summers, until local farms are harvesting watermelon, I buy mine at the grocery store. Harvested in the USA, according to the label, but it’s impossible to know the state of origin. Watermelons like it hot. We grow 200 to 300 varieties in this country, with the biggest producers being Texas, Florida, California, Georgia and Indiana. With New Hampshire’s short growing season, it’s a novelty crop, at best. You have to seize the moment to buy it, because the moment passes quickly.
The United States is not the world’s biggest watermelon producer, lagging far behind China for that honor. According to the USDA, 51 different chemicals are currently being used on watermelon crops: pesticide, herbicides and fungicides. In China, recent use of forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator, caused a spate of exploding watermelons. Apparently, being first in world production isn’t enough. You have to be fastest too. From the little I’ve read about Chinese produce, it’s a good idea to be careful. China is also using human birth control hormones on cucumbers.
Today’s watermelon came from the farm stand down the road, which offers produce grown far from New Hampshire just to keep its shoppers happy. It’s a local farm but, sadly, people don’t get the concept of seasonal fruits and vegetables, even at a farm stand. “People want their watermelon,” the lady explained. “They don’t want to wait.” Yes, that’s me she’s talking about. She didn’t know where my $6.99 cent watermelon might have traveled from to get to her cart. The wonders of modern produce distribution.
Having just enjoyed a healthy serving of my mystery, seedless watermelon, I’ll willingly admit to rationalizing caving in to this craving. It was delicious. Perhaps in August, when local (maybe even organic) watermelons are available, I’ll do a taste comparison. Until then, I’m likely to cave a few more times. But one thing’s for sure, no matter how powerful my desire, I won’t be paying $32.50!
For a delicious, cooling watermelon drink, check out this basil watermelon cooler. You’ll love it.
What craving gets you every time?