So, what does Italy have that America doesn't? Watermelon seeds! For years now, I've been in search of scarlet watermelon studded with the black seeds that informed my youth. They were the polka dots on white fabric, the visual cue of summer, the pop art work of nature. They have simply gone missing. Whereas seedless grapes were a welcome idea, seedless watermelon is not. Today's watermelon looks toothless and dull, lacking a certain life force. In short, it is without whimsy and sense of purpose. A picnic table lacking black seeds on red-stained paper plates is almost un-American. Still-life masters of fruit bowls would look sickly without the majesty of these ebony seeds. In Italy, on the other hand, watermelons have black seeds. It doesn't hit you right away, but it accounts for a good measure of drama at fruit stands and makes the ending of a summer meal feel complete. I can't imagine how unsatisfying it would have been to gaze upon slices of seedless watermelon on the tables of Ravello or Atrani, Naples, or Rome. Black seeds are the visual reward of the watermelon experience. Why would anyone want to take that away? Black watermelon seeds are nature's beauty marks, like the tiny adorable black dots that made us fall in love with kiwi; some things should be as they are.
In some parts of the world, watermelon seeds are "food." They are eaten in China and made into soup in Nigeria. In other parts of the world, like in America, spitting out watermelon seeds is a sport. Like so many other questionable ideas, the proliferation of seedless watermelons is about convenience. People here mostly eat watermelon cut-up in fruit salads. In Italy, they still eat it out of hand.
That said, here is a recipe for delicious, refreshing, "Watermelon Ices with "Seeds." The seeds may be chocolate, but they make you smile, and remember.
Watermelon Ices with Chocolate "Seeds" (adapted from Kids Cook 1-2-3) The riper the watermelon, the more delicious this tastes. Watermelon and chocolate taste great together.
4 heaping cups diced ripe watermelon 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
Remove any white (or black!) seeds from watermelon. Put watermelon in a food processor and process until very smooth. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue to process until sugar is dissolved. Transfer mixture to a metal pie pan and place in the freezer. After 30 minutes, break up ice crystals with a fork so that they are of uniform size. Continue to break up ice crystals every hour until the mixture is frozen, about 3 hours. When ready to serve, chill the bowl and blade of food processor. Put frozen slush into processor and process until very smooth. Conversely, the mixture can be chilled and made in an ice cream maker. Spoon into chilled glasses or dessert dishes and top with chocolate chips. Serves 4