by Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
It’s finally local watermelon season! We get our local organic melons primarily from Tipi Produce in Evansville, Wisconsin. These seeded beauties are one of the season’s sweetest, juiciest, most decadent pleasures, and they always seem to be gone way too soon. We should have local watermelon from August through most of September, depending on how soon the fall weather sets in.
Working in the Produce departments over the years, I’ve noticed that many people seem to shy away from large, whole watermelons, in favor of the more convenient (and more expensive) watermelon chunks, halves, and quarters. I suppose these smaller watermelon parts seem more approachable—easier to handle somehow.
I’m writing today to try my best to convince you to let go of your fears and apprehensions, and to buy (and eat) the whole watermelon. Whole melons are considerably less expensive since there is no added cost to pay for the labor needed to cut them up. Don’t think you can eat that much melon? I promise, once it’s cut up in your fridge, you’ll be surprised by how quickly it can disappear!
Here are my top 5 tips for how to successfully (and deliciously) handle a whole watermelon:
1. Invest in a good knife. I have a large, serrated specialty watermelon knife that I received years ago as a gift. I remember thinking “Wow, what a weird gift; I’ll probably never use this,” but boy was I wrong. It makes cutting even the biggest of watermelons a breeze, and during the summer months I probably use it at least once a week. Any high-quality, large serrated knife will do.
2. Cut your melon into chunks or “fingers” without the rind attached. Yes, watermelon slices with the rind are pretty and classic, but in my experience, they make eating the melon messier. You end up with little bits of wasted rind that you have to dispose of. I much prefer peeling my watermelons, slicing them into chunks or long “fingers” and stashing them in a covered bowl in the fridge. That way my kids can snack on them all day without me having to find little piles of rind stashed throughout the house.
The best way to peel a watermelon is to first cut both ends off so you have two flat surfaces. Set the melon on one of the flat ends, then use your knife to cut strips of rind off from top to bottom. Do this all the way around until your watermelons is totally naked, and then cut into smaller pieces.
3. Don’t forget to drink the juice! Once that bowl full of watermelon chunks is all eaten up, it’s time to enjoy the most delectable part of the melon—the juice! A good juicy melon will naturally drain out a full glass full of sweet juice to the bottom of the bowl it’s stored in. The juice is delicious by itself, but it you really want to be refreshed, try adding a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a pinch of salt.
4. Yes, you can eat the rind too! Before writing this article, I had never tried watermelon rind. Writing this spurred me to give it a shot, and now I’m hooked! Watermelon are in the same plant family as cucumbers. The best way I can describe the rind is that it’s like the firmest seedless cucumber you can imagine—so firm you really have to cook it before eating.
The most traditional way to eat watermelon rind is to pickle it in a sweet brine. I tried several different quick watermelon rind pickle recipes, and the best I tried is printed below, courtesy of the Watermelon Board. These pickles are really quite divine, and would be amazing with traditional BBQ, on a cheese plate, or (as I ate mine) as a snack all by themselves.
If you really want to get adventurous, you could also put fresh watermelon rind in a stir-fry or other vegetable dish. I’d put them in the same class as broccoli stems—delicious vegetables that are all too often simply wasted.
5. If all else fails, freeze your watermelon. If you’ve done your best, but there is still some cut up watermelon that’s lingering in your fridge, simply toss them in a freezer bag and freeze for later use. Frozen watermelon makes an amazing smoothie base. It can also be blended into a thicker granita, or used in blended adult beverages—a little frozen watermelon, a little lime, some tequila and triple sec, and you have something very close to the perfect margarita.
WATERMELON RIND PICKLES
Recipe from the Watermelon Board (www.watermelon.org (link is external))
4 c. water
1 Tbs. coarse salt
2 c. peeled watermelon rind (leave a thin layer of pink), cut into 1 x 1/2 x 2 inch pieces
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 all spice berry
1/2 c. cider vinegar
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp. pickling spice
1 long slice of fresh ginger root
1/4 tsp. celery seeds
Directions: In large pot, bring water and salt to boil over medium high heat. Add rind pieces and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Strain. Transfer rinds to a large metal bowl.
In saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly reduced. Pour over watermelon rinds in bowl. Place plate over top to keep rinds submerged in liquid. Cover and refrigerate for one day. Transfer to a glass jar and keep sealed in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.