Trash Talk: Get Your Rind On

Trash Talk is a monthly column by Arina Suchde that focuses on in-season vegetables and fruits, and provides recipes and inspiration for squeezing every ounce of deliciousness from your ingredients, root-to-shoot and seed-to-skin. This month, Arina shares recipes and techniques to use the watermelon from seed to rind.

What is over 90% water and related to cucumber, squash and pumpkin? With the onset of summer, I thought it was important to write about watermelon, more specifically, the rind and seeds that are highly misunderstood and largely undervalued. I’ve had a complicated relationship with the fruit; I can never eat it as is, or drink the juice, but I love it in slushies, sorbets, ice creams and popsicles — any dessert avatar, basically. Realising that is not the most conducive way to consume a fruit or reap its many benefits, I started looking for better ways to consume it.

Let’s begin from the inside: The flesh is easy to use: eat it as is, or juice it; I personally love making a shrub that serves as a great base for summer drinks, and does wonders for gut health. The seeds are most often discarded but over the years, they are slowly gaining popularity, now coming close to the likes of flax, chia, basil, pumpkin and sunflower. The seeds are not very appetising when eaten raw — the black hull needs to be removed after drying in the sun or in the oven. After this step, they can be eaten plain or seasoned and powdered for use in soups, gravies, smoothies etc. The seeds can also be sprouted to derive maximum nutrition from them. They are rich in zinc, iron, proteins and fibre. They also fall into the categories of ‘low carb’ foods and good fats.

The white rind is where the fruit’s versatility really comes through, with nutrients that even the flesh doesn’t have, most important of these being citrulline. Citrulline is an amino acid that helps with cardio vascular issues. Watermelons also contain lycopene that is known to be a powerful antioxidant and vitamins A & C that are great for the skin. The rind is similar in composition and texture to cucumbers and makes a good substitute in gazpacho and can also be used as a base for curries. A very popular way to use the rinds is to pickle them in a solution of salt, sugar and vinegar along with some whole spices, simmered till translucent and soft, and left to mellow for a couple of days. This pickle is great in salads, sandwiches and burgers, and as a side for hearty meat dishes. A lot of communities in India make a dry subzi/side to eat with rice or roti.  One of my favourite ways to use the rind is to candy it or make a preserve to spread on toast, cookies or muffins.

The tough dark green skin is edible but is an acquired taste; it smells almost like a freshly mowed lawn. The skin can be peeled with a peeler before cutting the watermelon. It makes a great natural dark green dye that can be used to make coloured paper or used for fun tie and dye projects.

Image credit: Taste magazine

Image credit: Taste magazine

Watermelon Shrub
1 small watermelon
1/2 cup honey (might need to adjust depending of the sweetness of the watermelon)
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar

Peel the green skin from the watermelon, cut the watermelon and remove as many seeds as possible. Separate the pink flesh from the white rind and save the rind and seeds for other uses. Blend the flesh and strain through a fine strainer.
Mix in the honey and taste for sweetness, it shouldn’t be too sweet.
Add the vinegar and mix.
Transfer the mixture into a glass jar/botte and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before consuming.  
To serve: top with sparkling water/soda and garnish with mint or rosemary. The shrub can also be used in various cocktails.

Watermelon Rind Preserve
500 gms watermelon rind, finely chopped
250 gms brown sugar
Juice of 2 limes
Finely grated zest of 1 lime or 1 tbsp of freshly grated orange rind
Few slivers of ginger for a slight kick (optional)

Grind the sugar to make a fine powder.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover tightly and leave in the refrigerator to macerate overnight.
Next day, transfer the mixture into a thick bottomed, stainless steel/non-stick pot and cook over a low flame stirring with a spatula at regular intervals.
Continue to cook till the rind has softened and become translucent.
Store in sterilised glass jars and seal. 
Refrigerate once cooled to room temperature. 
It should keep for a month if stored properly.

Arina Suchde is a chef and mixologist specialising in health-focussed culinary workshop for kids and adults.