Wash the Rind to Leave Bacteria Behind

Wash the Rind to Leave Bacteria Behind

The peak of summer brings ripe, tasty melons, like cantaloupe and watermelon, from the farm to your table. Watermelons are not only refreshing, they’re also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene.

What’s so special about lycopene? Lycopene gives watermelon its red color and does something more. It may help protect against cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. Although lycopene is more commonly associated with tomatoes, there is more lycopene in watermelon than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. But hold off on enjoying it icy cold. To get more lycopene from your watermelon, serve it at room temperature.

Whole watermelon stored and served at room temperature can have up to 40 percent more lycopene than refrigerated watermelon. At room temperature, watermelon continues to ripen, producing additional lycopene. Just make sure to refrigerate the watermelon within two hours after cutting it to avoid food-borne illness. If you prefer a cold taste, chill it right before serving.

Of course, watermelons aren’t the only melons packed with nutrients. Cantaloupes are a good source of potassium, along with vitamins A and C. When slicing and dicing your favorites, take a few safety steps. Melon rinds can host harmful bacteria.

When fruit is cut, bacteria on its surface can be transferred to the flesh. To lower your chance of food-borne illness:

  • Avoid buying melons that are bruised or damaged. Choose fresh cut produce that is refrigerated or surrounded by ice.
  • Refrigerate fresh produce within two hours of peeling or cutting. Throw away sliced or cut up produce after it’s been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Wash all melons with cool tap water right before eating. Don’t use soap or detergents. Scrub melons with a clean produce brush. Cut away bruised or damaged areas before eating.
  • Wash your hands with hot soapy water before and after handling fresh melons. Clean prep surfaces often. Cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops should always be washed with hot soapy water after coming in contact with fresh produce, raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Use clean cutting boards and utensils when handling fresh produce. If possible, use one clean cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

From their sugary centers to their sweet juice, melons can attract all kinds of bio bugs that can bring disease with them. If you consider everything melons touch when they are picked, packed, stored and shipped, it’s no surprise they can have all kinds of bacteria growing on them. When you jab a knife into a melon, you can push all the bacteria into its fruity center if you haven’t washed it first.

Remember: wash, wash, wash your fruit before you eat it! And as the CDC suggests: "When in doubt, throw it out." leaving site icon

Should you suffer a bout of food poisoning and need to see a doctor, remember, where you go matters! Make sure to do your research about ERs versus urgent care now, and know when it's time to be seen in case of emergency. 

Sources: Top Nine Health Benefits of Eating Watermelon, leaving site icon Healthline, 2023; Lycopene Health Benefits and Top Food Sources, leaving site icon National Library of Medicine, 2021; Food Safety, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Originally published 7/11/2016; Revised 2021, 2023