watermelon juice: a food story
It is impossible for me to drink watermelon juice without thinking of my dad. First of all, growing up with him, it was a summertime staple. My dad is Persian and let me tell you, the Persians love their fruit. They adore it. We were taught that fruit was Nature’s “candy” – and it’s still one of my favorite expressions to this day.
Unfortunately, a little less than three years ago, my dad suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. It was a rough time (to put it mildly) and he spent months in the hospital – first the ICU and then in a nearby Rehab Hospital. Needless to say my family spent lots of time with him across the weeks and months he was hospitalized.
A few weeks after his situation was slightly more stable – he still had a feeding tube connected to his stomach for all meals and a tracheostomy tube in his throat – but stable enough for the ICU, my dad started asking for watermelon juice. We begged his doctor and the nurses working with us, to let us buy or make some watermelon juice and share it with our dad.
Much to our delight (and surprise) the sweet medical staff acquiesced. I think they felt bad for this kind man who had recently suffered so much asking for a simple, healthy juice. I think they knew that even though this was by all official medical accounts ‘risky’ (unpasteurized juice, etc.), it was something that was important to him and to us and lift everyone's spirits.
It was one of those bright spots. I remember sneaking the juice into the ICU in one of my water bottles to then pour into his feeding tube. It was our little sly health plot – and as with most things – my dad was absolutely right about the health benefits this summer health powerhouse would afford him.
Now, you have to understand that with a feeding tube, the juice was to be poured (via siphon) into his stomach and he wouldn't be actually tasting it. Nevertheless, my father was thrilled to receive the juice and said he could feel it instantly refreshing and healing him. It was amazing to watch him find so much happiness and joy from such a simple thing.
Almost 3 years later, dad is out of the hospital, still healing and dealing with the reverberations of a stroke, but learning to thrive, and certainly finding joy and pleasure in food (and lots and lots of watermelon). Food - for me - is inextricably tied into memory, family, and joy. And to be honest, I wouldn't want it any other way.
Here's a quick run-down of some recent research on the benefits of watermelon and watermelon juice for your summer reading pleasure:
- Watermelon juice is an excellent source of potassium, vitamins A, C, and of course, the powerhouse antioxidant lycopene (one cup of watermelon contains 1 and ½ times the lycopene as a raw tomato).
- I recently learned that the rind too is edible has a powerful piece of healing to share – it contains a phytonutrient called ‘citrulline’ which helps to increase blood flow throughout the body and is important for heart and immune system health (hello rind-juicing and zero-waste practicing).
- Watermelon juice may relieve muscle soreness thanks to the presence of amino acid that seems to protect against muscle pain
- A FSU study found that watermelon extract helped to lower blood pressure in subjects with hypertension.
- When it comes to traditional folk medicine, watermelon has been touted to treat diabetes, kidney stones, and alcohol poisoning among many other ailments.
Whether your reason is nostalgic, health-related, or both, here’s to enjoying the benefits of eating or drinking some of natures candy!