It is once more time to think about gardening—whether to have one and what to grow if we do

It is once more time to think about gardening—whether to have one and what to grow if we do.  The food that I have found the most fun to grow is watermelon.  The trouble is that it takes up so much space and leaves room for little else.

                When they are in season, I eat watermelon every single day.  In fact, a friend and I did a watermelon fast for four days once.  We ate nothing but watermelon.  Now we learn that they are loaded with nutrition and fiber and they are very low in fat.  I am happy to report that on some lists they are considered one of the healthiest of all foods.

                Watermelon is definitely a food that is fun to eat.  It forbids us to take life to seriously and shouts “SUMMER!”  Many of us think of it as a snack but when you tally up its nutritive value, you might consider making it a mainstay of your summer diet. 

                Watermelons are an excellent source of vitamin A, which helps maintain eye health and is necessary for healing, vitamin C, which helps strengthen immunity, prevent cell damage, promote healthy gums; vitamin B6, which helps brain function and helps convert protein to energy.

                Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer.  Tomatoes are touted as a great source of lycopene.  However, watermelon has the highest concentrations of lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable, when it is red ripe

                Green vegetables are great sources of potassium but I doubt if they are as much fun to eat as watermelon which is another great source.  Potassium is important because it helps muscle and nerve function, helps maintain the body’s proper electrolyte and acid/alkaline balance and helps lower the risk of high blood pressure.  This tasty melon also contains amino acids citrulline and arginine, which can help maintain arteries, blood flow and overall cardiovascular function. 

                Nature seems to provide what we need at the right time of year.  In the summer, when we require more liquid, here come the watermelons, which are mostly liquid.  In fact, vegetables and fruits of all kinds are most available in the summer and they are the watery foods.  Some health enthusiasts say we are supposed to eat according to seasons, and what grows in our particular part of the world.

                Grains keep well, are high in starch, and they may be best eaten when the weather is cold for their warming effect.   Heavier foods are more difficult to digest and tend to heat the body.  I have found the heat bothers me very little as long as I stick with fruits and vegetables in season and eat very little meat, grains, or sugar.  Watermelons may be the most hydrating food on the planet.

                The only problem I have with watermelon (and I don’t let that stop me from eating them) is that my family has grown them for many years and I know how it is done.  Years ago, before the days of herbicides, which kill weeds, we had to hoe weeds out of watermelons.  It was a hard job because the vines had to be turned, etc.  Now many chemicals are used in the raising of watermelons.  My brother, who was not particular about what he ate, would not eat watermelons.  He raised them and knew the poisons used in the growing of watermelons. 

                A couple of years ago, I had wonderful luck growing a watermelon that I planted in the exact middle of my little garden.  It was so much fun to watch them grow, and figure out when they were ripe.  Never have I tasted such delicious watermelons and one of them weighed thirty pounds. 

                If you are interested in improving the nutrition of yourself and your family, growing a watermelon or two might be an excellent way to start.  I think children would become fascinated by watching those melons grow, ripen, and there is no eating more exciting than cutting your home grown watermelon.  A friend taught me how to tell if they are ripe by using a broom straw.  It works too and when watermelons are ripe, I will tell you all about it.

                I think I will go plant some watermelons in pots and then maybe I will have an early crop!!  They may crowd out the spinach, but then maybe they will shade it and keep it from getting too hot!!  It’s worth a try.

                On Monday, May 5 at 6 pm, I plan to lead a food preparation class at Bound by Nature health food store in Heber Springs.  Then emphasis will be on learning to incorporate foods that are found to help prevent cancer.  We will prepare and taste these foods, share ideas, and have a good time.  Call 362-6111 if you are interested because space will be limited.  There will be no charge.  We need to do whatever we can to halt this deadly disease that is affecting every one of our lives.  Early detection is fine---but it is not prevention.


(Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, and wrote a weekly column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at