Food and drink: Hey, watermelon! Man! 

The secret joys and joyous secrets of an ancient treat

When we were kids, we used to play a little game called what would you take to a desert island? You know, you could take only one thing from each category: your favourite book, your favourite friend, your favourite music, your favourite outfit (shorts).

When it came to food, my choice was always a toss-up between fresh cherries, preferably from my Uncle Hec’s orchard in the Okanagan, and watermelon.

But when I saw a grainy documentary — I think they were called adventure films back then — about the nomadic Maasai of Africa and how they’d cut a watermelon in half around its girth, stir up the pink contents with a stick and feed it to their cattle, I was convinced watermelon was the thing to take. After all, if the Maasai’s cattle could live off it, so could I.

Watermelons have been around for 5,000 years, at least in Africa. But styles have come and gone over time. So-called seedless watermelons, which actually contain small, undeveloped seeds, were first bred in Japan in the 1930s. The big 25-pounders with black seeds, which could reach 60 pounds, as well as the small round-ball “icebox” ones are a thing of the past, even at North Arm Farm, which used to grow the little guys. (Alas, with climate change, summers are just too unpredictable these days, and certainly this one hasn’t delivered a summer long or hot enough to raise them in Pemberton.)

My latest discovery, however, more than makes up for all past glorious incarnations: organic watermelon.

I know, it hurts a bit when you see those big green organic babies lying there at 98 cents a pound, while they’re regular cousins, at 39 cents a pound, are piled high. But trust me: take the plunge. They might seem a bit on the pricey side, but frankly, for a buck a pound you won’t find this much legal joy at any price anywhere. Besides, it seems like highway robbery and you’re the robber to pay only five or six bucks for a big ol’ regular watermelon — what does the farmer get out of that, a nickel?

Or maybe you shouldn’t trust me, because try one and you’ll be hooked. We’re gorging our way through our fourth organic watermelon this summer and, believe me, even for 13 or 14 bucks, these babies sing sweetly. Or you will be, as you swear you could live on them all summer long. Like the Sirens’ song from a Greek shore, they lure you in with one bite.

And there the metaphor sticks, because here’s the latest, compliments of the cashier who sold me our last fix and is, apparently, not off base. Watermelons, she whispered to me, carefully modulating her voice lest some unwitting customer overhear such subversive information, are aphrodisiacs. Huh.

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