How do you prepare and eat watermelon?

Watermelon straight from the fridge is very refreshing in summer, but it can be fiddly to prepare and awkward to eat. Most of the complication is due to the many pips.

There are basically two approaches. You can leave the pips (seeds) in the melon, and deal with them at the time of eating, or you can prepare the melon so that most of the pips are removed.

If you are happy to leave the pips in the melon, you simply slice it into thin wedges and serve it outdoors. People take the slices in their fingers, bite off bits of the juicy flesh, and spit out the seeds onto the lawn or into the bushes. This approach works well at barbecues, particularly if people are prepared to stand as they eat, because then they can lean forwards and let any drips of juice fall onto the ground instead of onto their clothes.

If you want to serve something a bit more genteel, you need to de-pip the watermelon in advance. There are an enormous number of pips in a watermelon, but here are a couple of tips you can use to make the preparation much faster.

With a long, sharp knife chop off a piece of melon about 2 inches (50mm). You will see that the pattern of seeds is not at all random. The seeds fall in specific lines. The aim is to make the next series of cuts along those lines so that you expose most of the pips. Cut the melon into bite-size pieces along the pip-lines.

Each pip is anchored by a thread-like stem at one end, and you will find that some of your bite-size bits are pip-free already. Move those pieces to the serving bowl, and work through the rest one-by-one. For each piece, you need to remove the exposed pips. If you use a sharp-pointed fruit knife, you can cut-and-flick these pieces out quite quickly. The trick is to use the tip of the knife to sever the stem of the pip. As soon as you feel the stem break, change the movement of the knife to flick the pip out. With practice you can combine the cut and the flick into one smooth movement, and work your way rapidly along the line of pips.

Sometimes your cut-lines won’t be exact, and a seed is completely under the flesh. No problem. The flesh is slightly translucent so you can see where the pip is, and you will have already worked out at which end the pips are attached. Just push the tip of your knife into the melon with surgical precision to sever and eject the pip.

What to do with all the leftover pips? Around the world—but particularly in the United States and Australia—there are watermelon seed spitting competitions (video) and weird watermelon festivals.

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