Is there a July 4th picnic that doesn't offer watermelon?

This summertime specialty is as familiar -- and welcome -- as a bottle of suntan lotion. But how well do we really know it?

Consider the questions that few people ask during a picnic. With these answers, you can be the annoying font of knowledge that every gathering has (and whispers about).

1. Where did watermelon originate?

The fruit is native to Africa, where it was considered a portable source of water.

2. What percentage of the watermelon is water?

As its name suggests, it's mostly water -- 92 percent.

3. Which states produce the most watermelon?

Florida, Georgia, Texas and California, in that order.

3. Where did pictures of watermelon appear 5,000 years ago?

Images of the fruit have been found on ancient tombs in India, China and Egypt.

5. Which vitamins does watermelon have?

A, C and B6.

6. How many varieties are grown in the United States?

About 50, most of them very localized. Much of the fruit is grown in the South. About 200 varieties are raised worldwide.

More than a slice of melon

As you'll find here, there are many more ways to use the fruit than as a simple slice or as a container to hold other fruit.

My favorite? Beverages, from a simple watermelon-ade (watermelon juice and lemonade) to a watermelon spritzer (sparkling water to watermelon juice) or daiquiri (watermelon juice, lime juice and rum, with a touch of triple sec).

To make watermelon juice: Purée 8 cups seeded and coarsely chopped watermelon in batches, about 2 cups at a time.

Lee Svitak Dean • 612-673-1749