As a child, I spent many summers gardening and visiting at my grandmother’s home on the outskirts of Lynchburg, not too far from Virginia’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.
During those times, I often went to a neighbor’s farm where I learned to pick and string tobacco, chow down on fresh vegetables at the lunchtime table and chase chickens around the yard.
Their kids and I also enjoyed running through the vegetable fields, stopping on occasion to pick a fresh watermelon off the vine. Right then and there, we would sit among the vines, crack the watermelon over a rock and fill our tummies with warm, sweet melon. Our refreshment break challenged us to see just how far we could spit watermelon seeds, too.
Decades later, those memories still make me smile when I see a watermelon at a farmer’s market or in the grocery store.
Now, there’s a nonprofit National Watermelon Promotion Board to remind us how good watermelon is for us nutritionally — filled with Vitamins C, B6 and A, as well as beneficial lycopene. Watermelon is 92 percent water, making it a tasty way to hydrate yourself after a long hot day gardening.
The website — watermelon.org — features dozens of ideas on how to prepare watermelon dishes and how to turn whole melons into creative centerpieces — watermelon snowman, Angry Birds, rabbit, robot, birthday cake, fish, flowering garden — for any age and any festive occasion anytime of the year.
Here’s one idea gardeners may particularly like:
1 oblong seeded watermelon
1 small yellow watermelon, or substitute mini red watermelon or pineapple
Flower shape cookie cutters
15-20 skewers for flower stems
40-50 Popsicle or jumbo craft sticks for picket fence
Hot glue gun
Green food coloring and pipe cleaners, optional
Wash the watermelons. Cut a inch slice off the bottom of the oblong watermelon to provide a stable base. Cut the top 1/3 off the watermelon lengthwise to provide the flower bed.
Cut out flat pieces from the flesh of the slice and from flesh from the flower bed piece. Use cookie cutters (or free hand cut) for the desired shapes for flowers. Be sure to cut shapes from the yellow watermelon as well. (Pictured are daisies and tulips.)
Soak skewers in green food coloring, and set on paper towel to dry.
Use a small melon baller to create flower centers from both the yellow and red watermelons. Assemble the flowers by attaching the center balls with toothpicks. Place entire flower head on tinted green skewers. Insert skewer flower stems into base flower bed. Be sure to alternate colors and feel free to experiment with other colorful fruits like cantaloupe or blueberries.
Fill the basket flower bed with the rest of the fruit in flower shapes and balls. Shape a couple pipe cleaners into leaves and carefully attach to the skewer stems.
Using caution, use a hot glue gun to attach the Popsicle sticks around the flower bed as shown to create a fence for the garden. Garnish with other fun shapes such as butterflies or honeybees.
Kathy is gardening columnist for the Daily Press, Newport News, Va.; email her at kvanmullekomaol.com; follow her at roomandyard.com/diggin, Facebook.com/kathyvanmullekom, Pinterest.com/digginin and Twitter.com/diggindirt.