Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - What a pleasure watermelon is. The color, the sweetness, the crunch, the freshness. We love watermelon. It took us some time to wrap our head around the word sandia, watermelon in Spanish, two words that seem completely unrelated.
Instead of buying sandia at the supermarket in Puerto Vallarta, we usually get ours from trucks parked on highways and back roads. Vendors with pickups, loaded to the brim, find spots that are easy for customers to pull over. Sandia is abundant in Mexico during the spring months but, here in Puerto Vallarta, local fruit can be found as early as January and as late as August.
The deep red color differs from what one is accustomed to seeing in the markets north of the border. This is due to local fare being picked closer to readiness; whereas exports are gathered in a manner that much melon, too young to be consumed, needs to be stored and ripened. This is an unnatural process and affects the interior color, as well as the flavor.
Local farmers selling on the side of a road are happy for you to sample their offerings and it's not unusual for several large green gourds to be cracked open, perched at the top of the load.
Most of us don't really know how to pick a watermelon. Some have been taught that tapping on the exterior and listening for a deep hollow sound is best. However, it takes a trained ear to recognize the ripeness of melons in this manner.
There is a much easier and more visible way to know when sandia is ready to eat. This is a recommended test for while shopping in Puerto Vallarta, as well as north of the border; regardless of where you buy your fruit.
First look for the field spot; a light yellow area where the melon sat on the ground as it grew and matured. A brown cordlike thread running from the area of the field spot is your sure sign of a tasty, juicy fruit. Contrary to what we might have been led to think, the brownness does not indicate overripe; it is the perfect condition. If there is a black node at the end of that thread, all the better.
The best way to prepare a sandia is to chop off each end, close to the flesh, down to the red meat. Set it upright on one end and methodically slice down, cutting off the sides of the melon, removing the entire exterior. Then cut in half and chop into bite size pieces, or long slender chunks.
For adults only: sprinkle a cup of vodka around the bowl for an extra treat! Que es cómo es.
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