atermelon is ubiquitous with sunny picnics, the Fourth of July, and BBQs – it is the perfect summer fruit. But its time has come to start playing indoors with other foods in dishes that bear no resemblance to the slice of watermelon you may have eaten in the past. Watermelon is definitely a food on the rise finding its way onto more and more menus at restaurants in SoCal. From grilled watermelon steak to adding it to a poke bowl or Greek salad, there’s a lot you can do with this fruit (and even more with the seed and rind).
The watermelons of yesteryear were all picnic watermelons – big, bulbous fruits that you lugged to your family reunion (and they are still great for that). However, the watermelon varieties widely available today mean you don’t have to wait until all your family and friends come over to buy one. There are icebox watermelons which are smaller and serve four to six people, yellow or orange watermelons that have a distinctly different yet still sweet taste, and personal (or mini) watermelons you can halve and eat by yourself. So whether you want a melon for one, four, or forty, or pink, red, yellow, or orange, there is a size and color right for your dish or occasion.
And then there are the seeds. Many commonly available varieties of watermelons are now seedless which is all well and good for convenience, but like other seeds, black watermelon seeds can be eaten and are an excellent source of protein. You can’t just eat them out of the fruit, though – they need to be sprouted, shelled, and dried. You can do this yourself pretty easily with items you already have in your house or better yet, buy them already sprouted, shelled, and ready to eat.
And last, but not least, the watermelon rind. Regarding preparation, think of the rind as a hearty vegetable and treat it as such. This means slicing it thin and cutting it into manageable pieces. It doesn’t have the same sweetness of the flesh of the fruit leaving it to incorporate nicely into more savory dishes. It also holds up well for pickling so it can be used to make a crunchy sandwich topping (think relish or sandwich pickles) or even in kimchi.
How to Select a Watermelon
I’m sure everyone knows someone who has a sure fire “magic” way to pick a watermelon: thumping, tapping, shaking it, plus whatever else you can imagine. To get the definitive answer, we asked the people who know watermelon best: The National Watermelon Promotion Board. They recommend three things: avoid watermelons with nicks or dents, pick one that feels heavy for its size (it should be mostly water), and then be sure to turn it over. This is key: the underside of a good watermelon will have a yellow, pale section where it was laying in the sun and ripened. If it’s perfectly green all over, it didn’t get a chance to ripen before being picked so it might look pretty but won’t be as sweet. Once you buy a watermelon, also be sure to wash and scrub it as you would a potato, especially if you are planning on eating the rind.
Watermelon Margarita (on the rocks)
Makes 2 margaritas
For the watermelon simple syrup:
- 2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
- 1 cup sugar
For the watermelon juice:
- 2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
- 1/2 cup water
For the margarita:
- 4 oz silver tequila
- 4 oz watermelon juice
- 2 oz lime juice
- 1 oz watermelon simple syrup
- course salt
- lime wedges
- Make the simple syrup by combining the watermelon and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Use a potato masher or another utensil to mash the watermelon and sugar together, pushing out the liquid and dissolving the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl or jar, pressing the watermelon to extract all the liquid. Set aside to cool completely. (Makes just over 1 cup of simple syrup)
- Next, make the watermelon juice by combining the watermelon and water in a blender. Blend until smooth, pour through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl or jar.
- To assemble the margaritas, use a lime wedge to line the rims of two glasses with juice. Dip the glasses in course salt and carefully fill the glasses with ice.
- Next, combine the tequila, watermelon juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until thoroughly chilled, about 30 seconds, and pour into the prepared glasses. Garnish with lime wedges and serve!