It’s Watermelon Season

Watermelon at The Bath House

Delicious and refreshing watermelon

It’s important to stay hydrated at the banya and we have a range of home-made drinks as well as water to quench your thirst.  

This month we also have watermelon! Watermelon is the taste of summer – bright red, sweet and more than 80% water – it’s the ideal way to stay hydrated. Sweet and restorative, watermelon is just the thing after parenie.  

Aside from being delicious and refreshing, what are the benefits of eating watermelon? 

Watermelon contains vitamins A and C as well as potassium, magnesium, amino acids such as citrulline and a number of antioxidants like lycopene. All of these produce the following benefits;

– Lowers blood pressure and acts as a delicious stress reliever

– Promotes good skin and hair health

– Can reduce inflammation and oxidation, combatting conditions like diabetes and heart disease

– Aids digestive health

– Improves mood and increases vitality

Because of its high water content, watermelon has a low calorie density and 100 g of watermelon only contains about 38 kcal. Eating foods like watermelon can help with weight management by keeping you feeling full for longer. 

Watermelon: a brief history

The origins of the watermelon lie in southern Africa where a tough and drought-tolerant ancestor about the size a grapefruit thrived. It was much prized by the indigenous people for its ability to store water and its pulp had a bitter taste.   

It was probably Egyptians farmers who gradually turned it from a small and sour canteen into the larger and sweeter food that we are familiar with today and seeds and paintings of watermelon have been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs. The Old Testament describes how the Israelites longed for watermelon after Moses led them out of Egypt and ancient Jewish manuscripts record watermelon as one of the foods that could be donated to priests and the poor in the form of a tithe.

The Greeks and Romans saw the medicinal qualities of the watermelon. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates used it as a diuretic as well as to treat children who suffered from dehydration and Pliny the Elder described it as a cooling food in his first century botanical publication, “Historia Natualis”. 

Watermelon followed the trading routes of the ancient world and made its way to India and China and from there to Europe and the New World. By the 17th century it was cultivated widely in those parts of Europe where the climate was suitable, including parts of Ukraine and southern Russia. In 1660 the Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich ordered that “watermelon gardens” be planted to produce Astrakhan watermelons for the royal court. Watermelons from Astrakhan and Kherson have always been considered the finest watermelons in the former USSR.  

The watermelon occupies a particular place in the Russian imagination. The word Arbuz begins with A and is often used as the word to denote the first letter of the alphabet and the watermelon was used in Soviet iconography to indicate the prosperity enjoyed by its citizens. In late summer temporary watermelon stores would pop up on street corners everywhere and a day at the dacha or country house was not complete without a slice of watermelon. Watermelon is seen by many as a natural cleanser as well as a symbol of summer in northern towns and cities where the winters are long and arduous.  

We are used to eating them fresh, but you can make jam and honey from watermelons and they can also be pickled in vinegar and spices to be eaten as an accompaniment to grilled meats.  

Come and enjoy the taste of summer and perhaps the taste of your childhood at The Bath House. While stocks last. Please call now 0203 906 2060

Recipe for marinaded melon / watermelon

Prepare the marinade: 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, ¾ cup sugar, 2 Tbsp honey, 2-3 cloves, a piece of cinnamon, a little allspice and ½ tsp salt. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, boil, cool and strain.

Wash the melon, cut in half, remove core and seeds and cut the flesh into cubes.

Put the cubes of melon into small jars, cover with marinade, close and tie with parchment paper. Put parchment paper in the bottom of a deep bowl. Put the jars in the bowl. Pour water into the bowl to mid-level of the jars and simmer for one hour.

Remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool. Remove the jars from the water and store in a cold place. 

Serve the pickled melon as a salad with grilled meat and poultry.