I love watermelon. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s cool, refreshing, and just screams summer. In fact, I love it so much that I am attempting to grow my own for the first time this year. I planted several starter plants in the spring, and watched as they grew and spread their vines ALL OVER my backyard. Seriously. It’s like a jungle back there, between the watermelon vines and cucumber vines. In spite of the fact that I’ve planted these in raised beds, they have overflowed and are taking over the lawn, making it so it’s impossible to mow in those areas.
Oh well. The things I do for yummy eats.
My real trouble is – I’m inexperienced in the watermelon-growing department. I have lots of watermelon babies. They’re growing (well, most of them – I had a few not make it past the softball stage and they went south…), but it seems to take forever. And as it turns out, it’s hard to tell when a watermelon is ripe to pick. In fact, I was eyeing the largest one with suspicion for a while, trying to decide when the time was right. I thumped it, listening for that “hollow” sound. Except every time I thump any watermelon, it always sounds hollow. Apparently I’m not good at hearing the ripeness. So I did more research, and found that once it ceases to grow larger, that’s another indicator. This one seemed to stop growing. Then I looked at the bottom, where the white spot is, and looked for yellow/cream color. I thought it was yellow enough, so I thought I was good to go. Hesitating a bit, I cut it.
Ta da, my first melon!
Only when I cut into it, it wasn’t ripe. It was slightly pink in the center, but definitely needed more time. Sigh. So what’s a girl to do when she’s killed off her first watermelon?
Make the most of it – use the rind for pickling!
I’ve never had or made pickled watermelon rind, but it’s something that’s always intrigued me. I mean, why not make the most of every part of summer’s favorite fruit? And I love just about anything pickled. So I gave it a go.
What resulted was something completely different than what I imagined. It’s sweet-tart, with lovely spice notes, reminiscent of the holidays somewhat. But it’s also amazing with smoked meats, making it a perfect compliment to summer barbecue. Mind you, you don’t need an unripe watermelon to make them either – the rind of any watermelon will work splendidly. Just peel the outer rind (this is easily accomplished just with a knife – just cut it away. No need to try to use some potato peeler, which seems more difficult than it should be.) and pickle away!
Watermelon Rind Pickles (gluten-free, vegan)
2 lbs peeled watermelon rind, cut into 1″ square pieces
3 c sugar (I have not experimented with alternative sweeteners, but I imagine a lesser amount of honey or agave might work)
1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
3 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch or two of salt
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add the rind. Bring to medium-low heat and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until tender. Drain and place the watermelon rinds into glass jars (I used 3 16 oz canning jars). Add sugar, vinegar, cloves, star anise, cinnamon and salt to the same saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Pour over the rinds into the jars. Seal jars with lids and allow to cool. Chill and store in refrigerator.