Thumping Watermelons in Luling
by Lori Grossman
It doesn't matter when the official first day of summer is -- calendar-wise. For me, it's not summer in Texas until I take my first bite of sweet, juicy ice-cold watermelon.
As a native Texan, I might be just a tad prejudiced, but I think the best watermelons anywhere grow right here in the Lone Star State. Your neighborhood grocery store can solve your melon craving if you're in a hurry. But, if you have time, go for a drive down a few country back roads and look for the small family-run produce stands along the roadside. If you're undecided about which melon to buy, usually they'll give you a taste.
How do you choose a good watermelon? Give it a thump. If it sounds hollow, it's ripe. The ideal place to try out this theory is Luling (pronounced "LOO-ling"), Texas during the annual Watermelon Thump.
A little Thump history
The festival's four-day run is packed with activities including a parade, food booths, arts and crafts, and a beer garden featuring live entertainment. And what would a celebration of watermelons be without a melon judging and auction of the prizewinners?
The most unusual and, to many, most fun event has to be the seed-spitting contest. We have all practiced this skill a time or two, but Thump contestants are in a class by themselves. In 1989, Luling resident Lee Wheelis set a Guinness World Record with a spit of 68 feet, 9-1/8 inches. Spitters compete for a $500 prize with the possibility of winning an additional $500 if Luling's record distance is broken. See, Mom and Dad, it's okay to spit sometimes!
Can you cook with watermelon? Happily, the answer is yes. To get you into the Thump spirit (seed-spitting is optional), down a luscious slice first, then try some of these recipes.
Tex-Mex Watermelon Salad
In a serving bowl, toss together melon, cumin mixture, lime juice, and coriander or basil until well combined. Serve immediately.
Watermelon Thump Ice Cream Pie
A cool dessert for a hot Texas day
Place watermelon chunks in blender or food processor container. Cover and blend on low speed for 30 seconds.
Swirl watermelon mixture through ice cream. Firmly pack ice cream into pie shell. Cover and freeze several hours, or until firm.
Mix the egg whites with the cornstarch and a little water to form a batter.
Heat the oil in a wok to about 250F degrees or until small bubbles appear around a 1-inch cube of day-old bread dropped into the oil.
Working in batches, dip the watermelon pieces in the batter and add to the oil. Deep-fry until the coating becomes firm and light brown. Remove, drain well and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Keep the batches small enough to maintain the 250F degree oil temperature. Makes 12 servings.
Watermelon Coconut Margarita
Lounging by the pool with a watermelon coconut margarita. Does it get any better than that?
For more information about the Luling Watermelon Thump, check out their web site at http://www.watermelonthump.com.
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