Appalachian Food Granny Pap

The Joy of Watermelons in the Summer


The Deer Hunter enjoying a slice of watermelon

I love watermelon. I always have, I mean what’s not to love? My watermelon consumption is relegated to the months of summer and seeing a ripe waiting watermelon always conjures up the feeling of hot sun, family, creeks, and drippy elbows.

Granny and Pap loved watermelon too. There was always much excitement when Pap came home with a big watermelon. He’d take it to the creek and nestle it in the flowing waters of the Stamey Branch until it was cold. We’d all head out to the backyard and Pap would cut long slices for each of us. We’d pass the salt shaker around so that everyone could sprinkle on as much as they wanted and then we dug in! We might talk about the day or Pap might tell us a story about when he was just a boy eating watermelon or getting into trouble for eating ones that he shouldn’t have.

Once we were finished we’d throw our rinds in the woods and head in to wash up. Granny would take any left over slices and cover them with aluminum foil and put them in the frig for whoever wanted them later.

I’m the only one in my house that likes watermelon, so these days I buy one and promptly cut it up into small pieces and put it in the frig to eat on. While the watermelon still tastes just as sweet I miss the camaraderie that was served with the watermelons of my youth.

Miss Cindy loves watermelon as much as I do and after hearing a story about The Deer Hunter’s Papaw James I believe he did too. James like watermelon so much that one year he tried to freeze a whole one to see if he could have watermelon at Christmas.


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  • Reply
    Nancy Wigmore
    August 18, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Oh do I ever love watermelon…Daddy grew watermelons in a field behind our house growing up. We sold them out at the foot of our road along Hwy. 24 East in Hubert, NC. (25cents each or 5 for $1.00). We got to eat our bellies full too. Just this summer my youngest sister brought us a Bogue Sound yummy and oh so sweet. I saved some pieces of it and put in the freezer…makings for a delicious watermelon smoothie. Enjoy your watermelon Tipper and eat a slice for me too!

  • Reply
    Eldonna Ashley
    August 17, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    We really enjoy watermelon around here. I have loved it all my life. When I was in college dating hubs we went to my parents for Thanksgiving. This was in the 60s but they somehow managed a watermelon because they knew how much I liked it. Hubs was very impressed. He later told me he fell even more in love with me because he liked it that my family loved me enough to somehow have watermelon at Thanksgiving.

    I know that is convoluted but it happened just that way.

    Another thing, totally unrelated, happened that weekend too. We were doing laundry and my future husband and I tossed in some of our clothes. It totally upset my youngest sister. She said, “You can’t wash their clothes together, they aren’t married.”

  • Reply
    Debbie nixon
    August 17, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    My family loves watermelon, fun memories of us sitting outside; watermelons iced down with ice cream machines turning especially for the fourth of July. My dad would make sure there was plenty cantaloupe and watermelons to feed us all. I just wished my dad and mom were still around to see there first great grandchild, he will be two in October but believe me he can put away as much watermelon as an adult can. It is a sight to see.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    I don’t always read all the comments but did tonight. For some reason I didn’t get the link until after 5 PM and was already on my way to church. I too have many stories of watermelon thefts. While in high school the FFA and FHA leaders asked if anyone could supply them with 35 melons for a get-together. My hand went up first. They paid me 35 cents each for stolen melons. It took me three nights to collect those melons.

  • Reply
    Jane W Bolden
    July 18, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Nothing any better than a nice, sweet, non mushy watermelon.

  • Reply
    Annette Hensley
    July 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Love, love, love watermelon. Got a really horrible stomach ache one summer as a kid from eating too much! If watermelon was available, I just couldn’t stop! Would love a good one right now but they are hard to find (and, for me, to carry)!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 18, 2018 at 11:31 am

    Ther was a farmer near where I grew up who would, each year, keep the location of his watermelon patch secret. He always made it a point to yell at u when we discovered the location. “If I see one of you boys messing around my watermelons, remember I got a shotgun.” He would ell and shoot when he caught us stealing his melons.

    Many years later, while on leave from the Navy, I asked him, “Where are your watermelons this year Richard?”

    He replied, “I don’t plant ’em anymore. All the boys want to steal these days are cars.” The only reason he planted them to start with was so we would have someplace to go steal watermelons.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      July 18, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      I loved your story. My husband and his brothers has watermelon theft tales as well…One time they got caught! What they were doing as kids, was going to the back of the patch and busting open melons and eating the good centers out leaving the rest as wasted melon. When his Dad got the news he made them go to the neighbors big watermelon field and weed in the hottest part of the day or weed the other garden for him until they paid off their debt/theft…The farmer felt sorry for them and told them to get a melon and go on home. That is after seeing they were sweating and about to burn up in the heat. The farmer called their Dad…and said, “I think they learned their lesson and will ask for a watermelon next time?” True story…

    • Reply
      July 18, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Apples and watermelons always taste better if they are stolen.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      July 18, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Garland and b ruth
      Enjoyed your stories and made me remember another story.
      Three of us boys were stealing this man’s watermelons and he finally caught us. He put us all to work burning brush piles. That was better than him telling my Dad. I didn’t steal anymore of his melons.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Love watermelon

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 11:16 am

    My family loves, loves watermelon. It funny, where i work, im a caregiver and i stay with a 93 yr old. She loves it so much, watermelon and strawberries. She will eat that when she dont eat other stuff. Good one today Tipper. God Bless!!!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 18, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I like Watermelons too, with or without salt. I got one at Ingles a few days ago and put it in the Coke machine. This one is round, and small, and I believe it’s Seedless.

    My second oldest brother stopped by my shop one evening and I was in the garden. After he noticed that I didn’t have any watermelons, he said “if I were you, I’d put some in just above the half runners, they’d jump off in those high weeds and make.” I thought that was a funny way of saying, but he was right. …Ken

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 10:41 am

    First memory of watermelon was chilling in a mountain spring at Grandpa’s home. Every July 4th we got together with all the kin, and they brought ice cream on dry ice because Grandpa had no electricity. We ate the watermelon and ice cream and no dinner that I recall. Precious memories, and nobody ever mentioned politics. I have found store bought to be sold too under ripe, so I made a practice of finishing the ripening for about 24 hours under a bush by the kitchen door. Young grandson reported a few years back that “some man was trying to steal your watermelon.” Actually it was a meter reader hunched down to read the meter. I still think a big ole slice of watermelon is one of the most cheerful sights Nature offers.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 10:29 am

    I agree with Shirl! We have bought at least 3 or 4 watermelons this year, and they just aren’t good! I loved reading your memories of watermelon eating, Tipper. There is just something so special about eating watermelon with family outdoors. It seems to call for reflection and bonding! All 3 of us at our house love watermelon and enjoy eating it together—if only we could find a sweet one this summer!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 9:53 am

    Freezing watermelon may not be a good idea if you’re planning on eating them but can be fun if you know how to do it. In the produce department of the place I worked they had thousands and thousands watermelons pass through every year. Once in a while there would be one that couldn’t be shipped for whatever reason. Next door to produce was the frozen food department. There they had big insulated containers of dry ice to use in other big insulated boxes where frozen food could be safely transported packed in dry ice on dry trailers. Dry ice is -109° F. Water ice forms at 32°. So if you put something in dry ice it is really cold.
    Well somebody decided to freeze a watermelon. After a day or so in dry ice it still looked like your run of the mill watermelon. Not knowing what to do next someone suggested we drop it on the floor and see if it would bust open. But not from waist or chest height, from the ceiling. So someone got on the forks of lift and someone else raised him up 30 feet to the ceiling. He let it go and it hit the floor like a bomb. It didn’t bust open, it exploded, spraying frozen pulp all over the loading dock.
    Lettuce and cabbage can produce similar results. Strawberries become bullets in dry ice. Eggs too! Dry ice in a plastic drink bottle makes a fine bomb too on a hot night. A lot of noise without a lot of destruction.
    Then came the end. Sadly the company introduced cameras and work was no longer fun.

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      July 18, 2018 at 2:11 pm

      Loved your story about dry ice and melons…However, we have frozen watermelon and cantaloupes…I haven’t done any in a while… Back in the olden days…lol…Mom and I used to take those quart size plastic freezer containers and make watermelon balls…and cantaloupe balls…Just take one of ball shape scoops and go to scooping out the balls…It takes just a minute to get the hang of twisting the melon baller just right and soon you have a quart full. There is some waste of melon but we soon ate the little pieces as you go…Cantaloupe and red melon mixed is good.
      Dad would get hungry for cantaloupe and melon and go to the farmers market in Knoxville. He always got a bargain on them so he would invariably bring home too many for us to eat before they went bad. We shared some with neighbors also , but we ended up putting a few quarts in the freezer…Mine you these aren’t to be frozen for months…only for a few weeks in the summer. Mom would take out a quart for all us kids to have a crunchy mushy cold treat. Sometimes she made a aluminum tray of her famous vanilla ice cream and that was dumped over the fruit. Remember that ice cream made in those long old timey ice trays didn’t freeze as hard as it does today..Frozen grapes are about as good when it’s hot with high humidity…just watch very small children so they don’t get choked on them…It’s gettin’ hot here now although the humidity is low…I could handle a big bowl of those iced cold melon balls right now…yes, I sprinkle a bit of the forbidden salt on mine…LOL

      • Reply
        July 18, 2018 at 6:12 pm

        Yes, I remember the old aluminum ice trays the handle in the middle that pried out the cubes. If the tray was a little too full the handle would bend before you could get them loose. Aluminum can’t stand a lot of bending before it breaks. I have a frigedater with an ice maker but I still make my ice in an ice tray.
        Funny how those old memories makes your eyes gain moisture!

    • Reply
      July 18, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      A “dry trailer”means it isn’t a reefer. A “reefer” is a refrigerated trailer. Regular frozen food needs to be kept at 0°. Ice cream needs to be at -20°.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 18, 2018 at 9:30 am

    We love watermelon around here. We have already consumed several. They are so good for you and low in calories. The doctor recommended that my Dad eat as much watermelon and cantaloupe as he could in all the summer months, to help keep him hydrated. He had kidney stones often and eating lots of melon help ward off these vicious things with their painful attacks. He just couldn’t seem to drink enough water to please the doctor so he said eat melon and more melon to help keep him hydrated. Which of course keep things moving along the waterway…Also good for us ladies as well…
    Like Jim I loved to be at the family picnic, when that big ice cold rattlesnake melon was cut. My Dad used the biggest butcher knife Granny had and down the middle he went. We knew we had a goodn’ when you heard the crack of the ripe melon falling open and separating into two big pieces…Of course as always, some mischievous Uncle would grab a big piece right out of the center…sending my Granny into fits…Scolding him and whacking him with the leftover newspaper…as he ran off with the prize piece of melon.
    With the mountain rule…waste not want not…A good melon had good white rind and always a round of watermelon pickles were made. Not an easy task either, peeling, cutting and chopping the rind into the right size pieces for pickles.. My Mom, Aunts and Grandmothers made a sweet, spicy pickle…that was firm and when cured on the shelf for a while or as long as we could stand it…would crunch with sweet spicyness. I loved them ice cold. I never could make them like they did…
    We grew the small round Sugar Baby variety one year. We had to guard them like a hawk…only got a very few! The ground hog, turtles and other varmints got the rest. What we did manage to save for ourselves were very good and sweet.
    Loved this post today…Sure would love to have some melon for breakfast…In the summer, we loved eggs/bacon/biscuits/gravy and a side of muskmelon or cantaloupe…sometimes leftover watermelon pieces…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 18, 2018 at 8:59 am

    How can there be summer without watermelon?

    AW that story of the wayward melon is worthy of a kids book. But I recall seeing souvenir plates from the Smokies way back that had a bit different twist. It was the TP that fell out the door of the necessary and went bouncing down the hill. Them melons, they don’t ride worth a hoot.

    The Sugar ______ could have been a Sugar Daddy. I think they were first then later there was the Sugar Baby. But the Baby is too small for more than 3 or 4 people. We got a good Baby this past Saturday. Big relief it was a good one because my picking skill was on the line.

    Anybody partial to the Moon and Stars melon?

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 18, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Oh, Tipper, that sounds so beautiful! Summer = Watermelon for me. When I was a child, Mama always got the grocer to plug a melon before she would buy it. We cooled our watermelons in the bathtub with cold deep well water. The best I’ve ever eaten are Rush Springs melons from Oklahoma. But the old “rattlesnakes” were delicious, too. The yellow ones never seemed to me like real watermelon, and they also gave me asthma. One summer we took a big watermelon on a camping trip in New Mexico. We set up camp, set the melon on a picnic table at the campground, then took off on a hike through the woods. When we returned, hot and thirsty for cool, sweet melon, I got the butcher knife to cut it but then noticed a saucer-sized hole in one side. When I cut it open, the melon was empty! Squirrels had eaten it down to the white of the rind!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 8:45 am

    I’m with the rest of your family; never liked watermelons. As I recall I only took a couple of bites and gave up. However, I do like cantalopes.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 8:14 am

    What is up with the tasteless watermelons this year? I have bought at least 7 or 8 and only one was fit to eat. My melons are getting huge in my garden. I only raise the orange fresh variety and start them indoors for an earlier crop. They are twice as sweet as red melons.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    July 18, 2018 at 7:56 am

    The memories this post brought to mind are priceless. We never had a picnic without a great big watermelon that had been cooling in the creek. We used jumping in the creek to clean us all up.
    Even after the great cleanup I can remember waking up the next day and finding seeds in my hair.
    I do know we were never allowed to eat watermelon in the house.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    July 18, 2018 at 7:42 am

    I love watermelon. Sometimes with salt but not always. I remember lining up to see who could spit the seeds the longest distance. There is a certain way to propel the seed from your mouth. You kind of have to skeet it out to get force behind it. I only like the red melons. The yellow ones jut don’t have the same sweetness as a big ol juicy red one.
    I cut up the leftovers into chunks and keep in the fridge for a tasty treat later.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 18, 2018 at 7:28 am

    Yesterday my wife bought a small round watermelon. When she got home she parked in a spot that was shady close to a steep hill. When she opened the truck door the watermelon took off over the hill through the tall grass and into a brush pile. I still haven’t found it.
    The last time I raised watermelon the deer stomped most of them.
    We always salt our watermelon too. It makes them sweeter.

    • Reply
      July 19, 2018 at 11:35 am

      aw-I hope you all find it!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 18, 2018 at 7:25 am

    The deer Hunter loved watermelon when he was little but seems to have lost his taste for it as time has gone by. Like you, Tip, I have always loved watermelon! I have some in the fridge now. Like you I’m the only one eating it so I cut it in bite sized pieces and keep it in the fridge.
    I lived in Texas from infancy to second grade. We moved there when the paper company here opened another mill there. My folks both worked in their business offices. We came home to NC once every summer to visit family. One year that I remember we stopped and bought a watermelon on the way then stopped at picnic tables to eat it.
    They realized when we stopped that we did not have a knife to cut the watermelon so my dad, held it up high and dropped it. It cracked open and broke in to pieces when it hit the ground. We ate all we wanted as best we could. The inside of this watermelon was yellow, a golden yellow like a yellow tomato. Thar’s probably why I remember the story so well. I don’t think I had ever seen a yellow watermelon before, and not too many since.
    We ate our fill and moved on down the road to NC! Interesting childhood memory.
    Yep, I love watermelons!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 18, 2018 at 7:22 am

    Having a vision of watermelon in pieces all over the freezer

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    July 18, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Papaw James just became my new hero!

  • Reply
    Jerry Wright
    July 18, 2018 at 6:37 am

    I always enjoyed watermelons during the hot summer. We would put them in the creek for several hours to cool. As a boy in Southern Indiana I use to watch the trucks loaded with watermelons go through town, so I knew that the farmers would soon be selling them at a farmer’s stand along a country road. Never used salt on a watermelon. The first time that I saw someone using salt with a watermelon was when I moved to Texas.

  • Reply
    Lee Mears
    July 18, 2018 at 6:37 am

    I’m right there with you and Cindy. I have one cut up right now and one in garage frig, from the Dollar Store Market of all places. They’ve been good and sweet so far.. I do always eat mine, inside or outside with a knife and fork on a plate.
    And the salt shaker.
    My father-in-law knew the names of all the ones grown in S GA. There is one called Sugar _____,? I cant remember, that the BEST of all!! It may take that black S Ga sand to grow it, I don’t know.
    I’m going to buy them till they give out.

    • Reply
      aw griff
      July 18, 2018 at 8:36 am

      Lee, that might be a sugar baby. That’s what rolled over the hill.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 18, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Tipper–Some of my fondest boyhood memories revolve around watermelons–eating slices from one Grandpa had hauled home from town in a tow sack then cooled in a wash tube filled with ice water, in late summer enjoying melons Grandpa had actually grown in sandy soil near the Tuckaseigee River, seed spitting contests, and getting a cold jar of watermelon rind pickles out of Grandma’s refrigerator and eating a piece or two. Also, my first venture as a gardener, when I was 9 or 10, involved a couple of hills of Charleston Grey melons.

    I don’t know about other readers, but I don’t think the seedless melons of today, often the only type you can find in stores, are as tasty as the old-timey ones. My favorites were a big, dark green “cannonball” melon or one of the “rattlesnake” melons Grandpa grew. To gaze on one of those splitting wide open from ripeness when the butcher knife was applied was to know sheer bliss.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    July 18, 2018 at 6:08 am

    I just don’t understand anyone that don’t like watermelon, it’s a little of God’s goodness and gift to help bare a long hot summer. I remember our School Bus driver who lived down the road, grew watermelons and sold them during the summer months to help supplement their income, and he could grow some of the best around, he’d grow in two different spots, a low place in the garden in case not much rain that year and a high place, in case of too much rain, always had watermelons to sell.

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