Friday, 28 June 2013

Watermelon (Καρπούζα)

Watermelons weigh a ton. If you decide to buy a watermelon, you have to think carefully about how you will transport it back to your home. Another consideration is how to buy a good watermelon. If you don't see it open... you have absolutely no indication that it will be good.
In Greece's relatively recent pre-crisis past, watermelon was rarely sold in halves. It was always sold whole. Since watermelons are sold by the kilo and they are relatively heavy, you were really wasting your money if you bought a whole watermelon that turned out to be not so tasty, which basically means that it was underripe, the flesh is soft rather than firm and it tastes rather like a sweet cucumber than a juicy watermelon.
Nowadays, it is practically unheard of to buy a whole watermelon. Even the supermarket sells halves (but not slices, as I recall seeing abroad). If you don't see it from the inside, you won't believe iwhat any seller tells you. Not everyone can afford to buy a large whole watermelon these days - they can be as heavy as 20kg each. 

We buy watermelon from one seller, a husband and wife team who open their little shop as soon as the watermelon season starts in Hania. They originally started up business about three years ago, and have now become a permanent fixture in the same spot every summer. They stock watermelon from only one producer, a relative who grows them in an area of Akrotiri, well known for its watermelon cultivation. This year the watermelon season started very early due to the hot weather: the couple opened their store - a corner yard on a main street, with some storage facilities behind another business - on May 8. They sell watermelons, and very little else. So all summer long, they sit in this shaded yard, slicing open large oval watermelons (that's very important to know - this is the classic shape of the Akrotiri watermelon, which is said to be the best due to the soil in the location where it is grown), which they cover with plastic wrap, then they place them in the fridge or sell them directly to the customer.
The couple have established a name for themselves in Kissamou St because they were one of the first watermelon sellers to sell icy-cold refrigerated watermelon halves. It may sound boring to do just this job for five consecutive months of the year ('we never stay open in October', the woman told me, 'because watermelons start to lose their flavour after that'), but they told me that they were happy because they weren't unemployed, and business is brisk at this time, because everyone needs to buy some watermelon on a regular basis during the summer.

Watermelon is now selling at about 0.65 eurocents a kilo. I bought a watermelon half weighing in at over 8kgs yesterday. 

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