Originally found in Tropical Africa, the watermelon grows best in south temperate climates and requires a long, warm growing season with large quantities of water and sunlight. Its flesh is red, sugary and full of water. There are numerous types of watermelon, each one different from the other by the colour of the skin and the crunchiness of the pulp. The most common type is the Crimson Sweet, which can be recognised for its oblong shape and the alternating light and dark green skin. Another popular variety is sugar baby watermelons, which are small, round shaped and dark green on the outside. In Italy, the Reggiana Watermelon was deemed PGI in 2016 and the Siracusa Watermelon was included in the list of the Traditional Italian Products.
In addition to water, which amount to 90% of its volume, watermelon contains fibres and minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, sodium, potassium and iron. It is also an important source of vitamins A, C, B2, B1 and PP, as well as lycopene, which is responsible for the bright red colour and a powerful antioxidant, intimately involved in the prevention of cellular damage by free radicals. Watermelon can help significantly in reducing the inflammation caused by asthma, arteriosclerosis and arthritis. It is a powerful ally against diabetes and cholesterol. It protects the respiratory tract and the liver and it is instrumental in tackling cellulite. Last but not least, watermelon contains carotenoids which can be extraordinarily beneficial to the immune system.
åWatermelon is excellent on its own, but it can also be enjoyed in a delicious salad, with figs, Parmigiano Reggiano and Genoan basil. Watermelon can be used to prepare fruit salads, jams, preserves, ice-creams, sorbets, granita and a number of desserts. Among many other specialities, Sicily is famous for gelu ri muluni, a frozen dessert prepared with watermelon juice, sugar and starch.