Fruits of our Labor

By: Alex Powell

You know the old adage, “When life you gives you lemons, you make lemonade”. Well, that’s all fine and good, but lemons are small, and easy to store. I can name easily 20 things off the top of my head to do with this tiny yellow citrus or its juice.  No friends, the real test of character is what you do when your farmer hands you a 15-pound watermelon as part of your CSA basket.  And then it happens again the following week. 

A brief overview of this monstrosity that rules over the market this time of year, it is thought to have originated in southern Africa where it grows wild.  Watermelon seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. The Spanish were growing it in Florida in the 1500s. It is the state vegetable of Oklahoma. Wait, what? Technically it is a pepo, which is a special berry that is characterized by being fleshy, many seeded, and having a hard rind. Aka, pumpkins, cucumbers, and other gourds.  Mind blown. Nature is a kooky thing. 

Because I am trying to teach my almost three year old to appreciate food, and those who grow it, no food gets tossed in our house. I’ll even overlook the things I don’t like about watermelon. It’s messy, the seeds stick to everything, and the squelching sound it makes when you cut into it… I actually read somewhere it is used as a sound effect for more than a few horror movies. So without further ado, I present to you 

Watermelon-4 Ways.

1.    Cut up. 
Because picnics. And lunches. It is simple and easy, as well as traditional, or lazy, whichever adjective suits you. I left the rind on some and not on some for variety. I froze some for later use in smoothies or just to enjoy post summer. Some people puree it and add a little sugar, then freeze it in ice cube trays. Frozen watermelon will lose some sweetness, so it depends on how you plan to use it. 

2.    Watermelon and cucumber salad.  (These measurements are not exact, increase or decrease depending on taste and desired serving size)

½ red onion thinly sliced
6 Tbsp lime juice (2 to marinate onion, the rest for dressing)
4 cups watermelon, cubed
1 cucumber seeded and chopped
Torn mint to taste
½ cup of olive oil
Feta cheese to taste

In a small bowl combine 2 tbsp of lime juice to onion and marinate for ten minutes.
Combine watermelon, cucumber and mint. Drain onion and stir into watermelon mixture. 
Stir together olive oil and remaining lime juice. Pour over salad, stirring to combine. Top with feta.  

3.    Watermelon ice cream
    6 cups watermelon, cubes
        1 1⁄2 cups heavy cream
    1 1⁄2 cups milk
        1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vodka
Remove the black seeds from the cubes if needed. Puree the watermelon cubes. Press the watermelon puree through a sieve to remove any chunks or seeds. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until the sugar is fully incorporated. Put into your ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

4.    Pickled Watermelon Rind There are countless recipes online. I happened to use this one, but make sure you read up about canning safety if you, like me are a novice.

Truth be told, I’ve never heard of such a thing, When I saw the carnage that remained after gutting my poor melon, I knew the rind had to be good for something. My husband had just returned from NOLA, and declared pickled watermelon rind a life-changing thing. Challenge accepted. It was our anniversary after all, and how better to say, “I love you” than pickles? So I go to the store and get the necessary equipment  (canner, jars, etc…). As I am simmering the rind, I prepare the canner to place on the stove, and happen to catch a line on the warning. NOT FOR USE ON GLASS TOP STOVES. Hmm… how important is that? “Siri, why can’t I can on a glass top stove?” There are three basic reasons. First, most glass top stoves do not maintain a consistently high temperature that is required to kill the bacteria that may be present. Second, this was not a flat-bottomed canner and it is possible for it to create a seal with the burner that will shatter the top when you lift it. Finally, the weight of the canner, jars, and water can be too heavy for the stove and crack the top.  I have friends who have taken this risk for years and have never had an issue, so your best bet is to double check with the manufacturer of your stove. Ours is already at the end of its lifespan, and while I would love to have a reason to get a new one, I did not take this chance. I still jarred the pickled rind; I just have to leave it in the refrigerator instead of the pantry.  I have to agree with my husband; pickled rinds are an amazing thing. You can also adapt this recipe to pumpkins and other winter squash. 

Lastly, I won’t count this in the recipe count because I didn’t try it personally, but you can roast the seeds. Toss watermelon seeds in a little olive oil and sea salt. Roast on a baking sheet in a 325-degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Oh well, there’s always next year… All in all though I would say that’s definitely using your melon!