Can Someone Please Tell Me Why Kentuckians Insist on Putting Salt on Watermelon?
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 is National Watermelon Day. I'll be honest. I wasted about half my life despising watermelon, but, thankfully, in the early 90s, I changed my mind. Here's what happened.
I grew up in Kentucky, where it seems virtually everyone puts salt on their watermelon before they eat it. Everyone in my family certainly did and I thought the taste of watermelon with salt on it was absolutely revolting. So, for me, I just assumed I didn't like the taste of watermelon. As it turns out, that wasn't the case at all.
In the Summer of '91, in between semesters at the University of Louisville, I spent three months living in Brunswick, Maine and working in Freeport. The family I lived with, the Emersons, introduced me to all the delicious flavors of Maine- lobster, lobster rolls, etc. One night, after dinner, they carved up a watermelon and asked me if I wanted a piece. I swiftly said, "No thank you." They laughed and asked, "Who doesn't like watermelon?"
I replied, "Me! I don't understand why anyone would put salt on fruit."
They looked at me, stunned. Then someone asked, "Who puts salt on watermelon?"
I answered, "Everyone I've ever known."
Then someone said, "Well, that's ridiculous. Why on Earth would anyone put salt on a watermelon?"
I said, "THANK YOU! That's what I have always asked?"
Then, they handed me a piece (without salt, of course) and insisted that I try it.
IT WAS DELICIOUS!! It was a totally different experience eating watermelon the way it was intended to be eaten instead of crop-dusting it with 7 grams of Morton's like we do here in the South. LOL.
So, why is it that people put salt on watermelon? I mean, truly, what's the point?
Watermelon is supposed to be sweet, right? But I have asked around and some folks say it helps improve the texture. Okay, I guess. But, what? Other folks say it helps cut out the bitterness. Bitterness?? What bitterness?
I decided to consult with the experts about this. As I figured, Southern Living has chimed in on this hot topic. However, their answer has completely confused me. An article updated just yesterday says:
When a fine sprinkle of salt is added to watermelon, the balance of flavors shifts a bit, and watermelon becomes increasingly sweet.
Uh, okay. But, that has not been my experience at all. For me, the salt takes the sweetness OUT. On my tongue, it has the opposite effect of what they are describing.
So, as we celebrate National Watermelon Day, I plan to enjoy a piece today just as nature intended it. Completely naked (the watermelon, not me) and without freaking salt.