Last week, upon the weekly arrival at my snowbird parents’ home in the Catskill Mountains of New York, they asked me to take the watermelon they purchased out of the trunk of their car. The 15-pounder was waiting for me so I could carry it into the house for my parents, who are in their 80s.

While carrying the large, seedless melon, I was thinking about some creative recipes I have shared with you.

With summer being the peak season of consumption in the U.S., it is time to celebrate with a juicy slice and prepare creative recipes. (National Watermelon Day was Aug. 3.)

Thanks to countries like Brazil, Mexico, Guatamala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras who experience summer during our winter, watermelon can be enjoyed all year.

In my culinary travels, I’ve noticed many restaurants have incorporated dishes using watermelon as a featured ingredient. It is among the fastest-growing fruits in terms of use on food-service menus, having grown by 54 percent in the past few years, according to a recent menu trends study commissioned by the National Watermelon Promotion Board. It appears on 13 percent of menus nationwide. One in 10 restaurants serving alcoholic beverages feature a drink containing watermelon, more than doubling in the last 10 years.

Food for thought

The Watermelon Promotion Board represents 800 watermelon growers, shippers and importers nationwide. Its goal is to promote the nutritional, culinary and convenience benefits of watermelon.

The first cookbook published in the United States in 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.

Watermelon’s official name is Citrullus Lanatus of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae. It is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.

Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.

More than 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide.

Watermelon is grown in more than 96 countries worldwide. The USA ranks seventh in production; China is first.

In China and Japan, watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.

In some Mediterranean countries, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.

Watermelon is 92 percent water.

By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.

Watermelon doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol, is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and contains fiber and potassium.

Watermelon is approximately 70 percent flesh and 30 percent rind.

Watermelon is considered both a fruit and a vegetable; it is the state vegetable of Oklahoma.

Every part of a watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rind. Zero food waste.

Some people find it challenging in picking a ripe watermelon and cutting one. These videos are helpful: bit.ly/30Vgosi and bit.ly/3kMyVz8.

Once you pick the perfect watermelon and know how to cut it, try these recipes provided by the National Watermelon Promotion Board.

Watermelon Rind Stir Fry

Next time you buy a whole watermelon, reserve the watermelon rind for this ingenious recipe.

The rind will soften and quickly absorb the flavor of your sauce.

Add shrimp, tofu or chicken for an extra protein boost.

Heat sesame oil in a wok over high heat. Add the watermelon rind and carrots and stir fry, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Let sit over high heat for 1 additional minute without stirring.

Add the chives and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and ginger.

Pour the sauce over the watermelon rind and cook, stirring, 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.

Transfer to a serving dish. Add the basil, cilantro, and mint, tossing to combine.

Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve as a side dish. Serves 4.

Watermelon Pomegranate Green Tea

Mix ingredients together in a large container (except ice) and chill well. Stir before serving and serve over ice. Makes 6-8 servings.

Spicy Watermelon Hummus

What if you could have a delicious snack and it was good for you, too? Well, you can. This hummus is packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant goodies, while being low-fat, low-calorie and the best hummus you have ever tasted! It also makes a great sandwich spread or topping for bruschetta. Extra virgin olive oil is the best to use here, since it is a good source of healthy fat and antioxidants.

Mince garlic in a food processor. Add onion and parsley and blend until fully minced. Add rest of ingredients and blend until smooth.

Refrigerate for at least a half-hour to allow flavors to blend. Garnish with diced watermelon and parsley sprigs. Serve with pita bread, baked chips, or baby carrots. Makes 11/2 cups.

Watermelon Strawberry Shake

In blender or food processor, process yogurt, watermelon, strawberries and banana until smooth and frothy. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Kids Watermelon Sandwich Cookies

Evenly frost bottom of each pancake with white frosting. Arrange six pancakes frosting side up on serving platter. Place one slice watermelon on each frosted pancake. Top each with remaining pancakes, frosting side down. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 6.

Savory Watermelon ‘Pizza’

Paired with savory ingredients like prosciutto and goat cheese, this savory “pizza” skips the bread to make watermelon the new star. Use any cheese and/or meat of your choice — some classic watermelon pairings include feta, bleu, parmesan and mozzarella.

Spread goat cheese to cover watermelon leaving room to hold the rind. Sprinkle watermelon pizza with goat cheese through greens toppings as desired.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Created by Chef Dave Wooley for the National Watermelon Promotion Board, these watermelon rind pickles leave the slightest bit of red flesh for a beautiful color and taste experience.

In large pot, bring water and salt to boil over medium high heat. Add rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain. Transfer rinds to large metal bowl.

In saucepan, combine all of the other ingredients and spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Pour over watermelon rinds in bowl. Place plate over top to keep rinds submerged in liquid. Cover and refrigerate for one day. Transfer to a glass jar and keep sealed in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Serving suggestion: enjoy with your favorite deli meats and cheeses, perhaps with other pickled veggies.

Culinary calendar

“Summer Saturdays” noon-4 p.m., New Haven; participating New Haven restaurants will offer two-course prix-fixe lunch menus for $20 (excluding beverage, tax, and gratuity). Reservations are required. Other eateries and cafes, including coffee shops and bakeries, offer 20 percent off an item. Local musicians will perform live at select spots throughout the city. Special parking rates are available. Participating restaurants and other retail shops at infonewhaven.com/new-haven-summer-

saturdays.

BASTA Trattoria, 1006 Chapel St., New Haven, 203-772-1715, Pasta Trio, menu at bit.ly/2WPnmwy, choose three different pastas and three different sauces for $20 per person. Served for lunch (noon- 3 p.m.) Saturdays and Sundays for dining indoor or outdoor. bastatrattoria.com

Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill, 271 Crown St. New Haven, 203-777-7700, happy hour from noon to 4 p.m., with $1 sliders, $1 drafts and $2 cans and bottles. These specials are available for dine-in only (indoor or outdoor). bit.ly/2ZW5cek

Shell and Bones, 100 S. Water St., New Haven, 203-787-3466, re-introduces happy hour, Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m, offering $1 oysters, half-price bottles of wine and $1 drafts. Specials available for dine-in only (indoor or outdoor). shellandbones.com

Worth Tasting, culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven, Sept. 12, 10:30 a.m., reservations required, 203-415-3519, $68. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites.Tickets at bit.ly/2FjiwMP.

Cooking questions? Send them to Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at gw-stephen.fries@gwcc.commnet.edu or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.

Connecticut Media Group