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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.

This celebration started in 1954 and - like the local watermelons - has been growing in popularity ever since. Held the last Thursday through Sunday in June, the Thump draws an estimated 40,000 visitors to this small town 45 miles south of Austin and 55 miles east-northeast of San Antonio.

A little Thump history
A celebration to promote the local watermelon crop was the brainchild of Hermon Allen, principal of Luling Elementary School. Mr. Carol Ferguson, a local high school student, won a name-the-celebration contest by submitting the catchy "Thump."

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

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 cups watermelon pieces (3/4-inch cubes with seeds and rind removed)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons shredded fresh coriander (or basil)
Mix together cumin, salt, cayenne, and chili powder.

In a serving bowl, toss together melon, cumin mixture, lime juice, and coriander or basil until well combined. Serve immediately.

Related Articles:
  • Article - Watermelon Rind Preserves
  • Article - Cool Summer Salads
  • Article - Texas Peaches and Peach Recipes

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  • Watermelon Thump Ice Cream Pie
    A cool dessert for a hot Texas day
    • 1-1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
    • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
    • 1 cup seedless watermelon chunks
    • 1 quart softened vanilla ice cream
    Empty graham cracker crumbs into a medium bowl. In a small saucepan (or in microwave), melt the butter. Remove from heat. Add butter to cracker crumbs and mix until crumbs form a ball. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate one hour.

    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.

    Deep-Fried Watermelon
    They made a movie about fried green tomatoes. Could this be a sequel?

    • 1 watermelon (about 10 pounds)
    • 11 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 7 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 2 egg whites, beaten
    • 3 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying
    • Powdered sugar
    Cut the watermelon in half and scoop out the pulp. Remove any seeds and cut the pulp into diamond shapes. Coat with the flour.

    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
    All I can say is "Yummmm".

    • 2 cups seeded watermelon chunks
    • 2 ounces coconut-flavored rum
    • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
    • Juice from 1 fresh lime
    • 1 cup cracked ice
    Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a sugar-rimmed glass. Makes 1 serving.

    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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