Annapolitans and visitors alike cooled off earlier this month with refreshing, local watermelons during a kick-off event at the world’s largest crab feast at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis encouraging consumers to purchase sweet, locally-grown watermelons, which are considered by many “The Original Summertime Treat.”
Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) Secretary Buddy Hance; National Watermelon Queen Amber Nolin, Mar-Del Watermelon Queen Chelsey Procino, Florida Watermelon Queen Brandi Harrison, Georgia Watermelon Queen Carol Anne Mitchell, South Carolina Watermelon Queen Catherine Woodtich, plus national and Mar-Del watermelon farmers were on hand to hand out fresh, cool watermelon slices, along with fun giveaways including recipes. The purpose of the promotion is to highlight the economic and nutritional value of watermelon and the increasing demand for locally-grown produce.
“Consumers who buy MAR-DELicious watermelons will be purchasing a fresh crop that is carefully grown in the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware,” said MDA Secretary Buddy Hance. “We have a long history of bringing some of the freshest, most nutritious produce from local farming communities to larger cities in the Chesapeake Bay region. We look forward to continuing the tradition and encouraging people to support our farmers by buying local products.”
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service in 2012, Maryland and Delaware farmers together harvested 173.3 million pounds of watermelons with a farm gate value of $22.5 million from 4,900 acres.
The Mar-Del Watermelon Association joined with the Delaware and Maryland departments of Agriculture for the seventh consecutive summer to tap into consumer desire to buy locally-grown food and support local farmers.
“This August promotion gives our consumers countless opportunities to experience locally grown Maryland and Delaware watermelon that is second to none in quality, nutrition and taste,” said MDA
Marketing Chief Mark Powell. “The Maryland Department of Agriculture is always pleased to work with our participating retail food markets in Maryland and Delaware, the Mar-Del Watermelon Association, and the Delaware Department of Agriculture to provide marketing opportunities for our growers.”
Delaware and Maryland will also continue their in-state promotion of locally-grown watermelons encouraging consumers to buy the great-tasting, healthy fruit with the brand label of “MAR-DELicious” in area food stores. Acme, Costco, Food Lion, Giant, Harris Teeter, Mars, Safeway, Sam’s Club, SUPERVALU, Ukrop’s, Wal-Mart, Wegmans, Weis Markets and Whole Foods Market are among the stores participating in the promotion by carrying and identifying MAR-DELicious brand watermelons in a number of their stores.
The National Watermelon Promotion Board offers these tips for choosing and storing watermelon:
- Pick a firm, symmetrical watermelon free of bruises, cuts and dents.
- Pick it up: It is 92 percent water and should feel heavy for its size.
- Turn it over and look for the yellow spot that shows that the melon ripened on the vine.
- Watermelons typically need warmer storage than other fruit. 55°F is ideal, but whole watermelons will keep seven to 10 days at room temperature.
- Once a melon is cut, it should be wrapped and stored at 37°F to 39°F. From salads to satay, watermelon makes a refreshing, no-cook summer meal.
Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland is an area filled with the history of fresh market produce, including watermelons, with the Laurel (Del.) Auction Market serving as a primary marketing point for watermelons since the 1940s. As early as 1905, melons grown on the Delmarva Peninsula were shipped by rail to markets in the cities.
Watermelon is a healthy summertime treat, too. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. A two-cup serving of watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C as well as potassium. In addition, fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than any other fresh produce. A number of studies have drawn a correlation between lycopene and the possible prevention of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
A brief slideshow featuring Will Hales, Maryland farmer who grows more than 300 acres of watermelons, is available online at: http://youtu.be/w9_Mx1zLFb8. For more information about MAR-DELicious watermelons, contact MDA’s Mark Powell 410-841-5775, [email protected] or Stone Slade 410-841-5779, [email protected], or visit www.marylandsbest.net.
This special event, hosted by the Rotary Club of Annapolis, is not only the world’s largest crab feast but also a major fund-raiser that benefits local community and cultural organizations. As many as 2,000 people were expected to attend and finish off 325 bushels of crabs, 3,400 ears of corn, 100 watermelons, 75 gallons of crab soup, 1,800 hot dogs, 150 pounds of beef barbeque, and hundreds of gallons of soft drinks and beer.