Watermelons ripen quickly in the summer heat, which makes them an ideal summer fruit to incorporate into your summer meals. But most people are only familiar with watermelon as a summer snack, dicing it up and serving it on its own.

Watermelon is an excellent summer treat that is currently in season. When freshly picked and sourced from your local farm, they’re a great addition to summer meals as they are full of nutrients and can help keep kids and adults hydrated during the summer heat. If you’re interested in exploring what’s possible with watermelon, here are some ideas to get you started.

Feature watermelon in salads

One simple way to showcase watermelon is by creating a summer salad that uses this fruit as a key ingredient. Watermelon salads can be made by combining cubed watermelon with herbs, olive oil, and even starches like orzo pasta, resulting in a fancy, delicious salad that takes just a few minutes to prepare.

“Watermelon makes an excellent pairing with feta cheese, as well as herbs like basil and mint,” says Gadston Croom, owner of Croom Farms, a  Farm Families of Mississippi farm in Lucedale, Mississippi. “You can also use it with cucumber, lemon, and other Mediterranean mainstays, and serve it either chilled or at room temperature.”

Using watermelon as a garnish

Want to feature watermelon in your main course? Consider mixing up a salad or sauce that serves as a garnish to your entree. A tangy watermelon salad, for example, could be paired with barbecue chicken to offer a sweet, bright complement to the savory, rich flavors of your main course.

Watermelon doesn’t hold its form or flavor well when cooking, so it’s best to avoid throwing it into a hot pot, unless you’re making a dessert or confection. But as a crisp, cool addition to your dinner plate, it can add exciting new flavors to your summer meal.

Dessert ideas that use watermelon

A number of different recipes use watermelon as the featured fruit for a refreshing summer dessert. Whether you make a whipped watermelon pie or blend up a watermelon with honey to make your own watermelon sorbet, consider kicking your dessert skills up a notch by adding mint, basil, vanilla, or other fruits that offer a strong contrast, such as blueberries and blackberries.

Watermelon sorbet is a simple recipe that only takes a few minutes of active prep. To make this treat:

  • Blend up one cubed medium watermelon with 1/4 cup honey and the juice of one lime.
  • Pour the blended mixture into a shallow pan where you can scoop the sorbet mixture after it has set.

“After you’ve made the watermelon sorbet, place it in the freezer for about two hours until it’s partially set,”  says Gadston Croom, owner of Croom Farms, a Farm Families of Mississippi farm. “If you freeze it longer or overnight, give it 5 to 10 minutes to soften at room temperature so that it scoops easily from the container.”

If you’ve never experimented with using watermelon in your summer meals, it’s time to break out of routine and explore some easy ways to feature this fruit in a whole new way. Don’t be afraid to try some new things and take risks as you discover all the different ways watermelon can be featured on your dinner table.