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Fresh watermelon slices. Photo by Kudla Jana, taken from stock.xchng.

Juicy watermelon: Not just a summer staple.

Okay, so I’m just going to come out and say it. I absolutely love when an ordinary fruit or vegetable gets a PR makeover and emerges a more accessible, versatile ingredient before your very eyes. It’s like a 90’s chick-flick set in your grocer’s produce section.

I was enthralled when the U.S. Potato Board transformed the boring old spud into a healthy, inexpensive meal option worthy of a Prom Queen title and overjoyed when Hunt’s used its Fairy Godmother magic on canned tomatoes (see past posts). My latest find is an organization attempting to make that star quarterback notice an old summer favorite, even during football season.

The scene

It’s February. You’re outside shoveling the snow in your driveway. When you finish, you go inside your warm home, take off your coat and boots and cozy up to your fireplace with a good book and a nice… slice of fresh watermelon?

Maybe not quite, but the National Watermelon Promotion Board is devoted to positioning the watermelon as a year-round fruit.

"Cookie Cutouts" NWPB's kids recipe idea. Picture from NWPB 2009 media kit.

The NWPB even uses watermelon to help celebrate Valentine's Day.

The action

In efforts to stimulate the watermelon industry, the NWPB provides the public with craft and recipe ideas, as well as watermelon nutritional facts and other benefits on its Web site. Last May, The NWPB launched What About Watermelon?, a blog devoted to sharing the watermelon’s many year-round uses with readers. To learn more about the blog’s purposes, read it’s first post written by Mark Arney, the NWPB’s Executive Director.

One of my favorite features of the blog is the weekly recipes reflecting the current season. In the fall and winter months, the recipes themselves help encourage the consumption of watermelon in cold weather. Some revolve around seasonal events and holidays, and some feature the fruit in warm and savory main-course applications that consumers may not usually consider.

The fact that the recipe titles are sometimes bizarre-sounding (recently posted was a recipe for a Super Bowl-inspired, football-shaped watermelon “cake” complete with cream cheese frosting and licorice decorations) is just further proof of how creative, innovative and hard-working the NWPB is getting in their efforts to promote the watermelon.

The suspenseful cliffhanger

Between the watermelon recipes, facts and stories featured every week on the What About Watermelon? blog, plus separate but similar features on the NWPB’s site, there is certainly no shortage of watermelon information available on the Internet. The tactics are backed by good intentions and creative ideas. However, I gather a feeling that the promotional materials are not being seen by a very large audience.

What About Watermelon? is still a fairly new blog and I see it doing very well if it continues to deliver interesting posts and inventive uses for the watermelon. The NWPB has an online newsroom where marketing materials are readily available for inquiring journalists. However, it has not updated its collection of press releases and news clips since 2007. In order to achieve positive results, it needs to continue its promotional efforts.

So, with a little bit more persistence from the NWPB, I do believe that America’s favorite green and pink summer treat can score a year-round seat at the popular kids’ lunch table.

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