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When melons are in season, the rinds usually end up in the compost pile, which is a shame because the rind is the healthiest part of the melon. So before you toss it out, try this old-fashioned Southern treat: Watermelon rind pickles.
Watermelon rind is a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium. You can get even more vitamins and minerals in your watermelon by simply selecting the yellow flesh variety. The more yellow, the more nutritious it is.
Watermelon has higher concentrations of lycopene—an antioxidant that protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease—than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, and it also boosts the immune system.
For pregnant women, the benefits of watermelon rind go beyond just vitamins and minerals. The rind has also been proven to reduce heart burn or acid reflux, reduce swelling, and its natural sugars can even alleviate morning sickness and dehydration.
In the third trimester, consuming watermelon rind can also reduce muscle cramps, as the amino acids citrulline and arginine contained in the fruit will help relax your blood vessels. So if you are pregnant, make sure you eat some watermelon rind from time to time.
Watermelon rind pickles have a sweet, sour, spicy, chutney flavor. All that soaking and cooking softens the rind to the consistency of a ripe pear.
The sugary syrup is, of course, pretty sweet, but the vinegar gives it a great tang, like a sweet Gherkin pickle. The cinnamon, pepper, allspice, and cloves add a lovely, autumn harvest flavor.
Normally, I like to lacto-ferment pickles, but traditional watermelon rind pickles need to be softened first by cooking, which unfortunately kills any bacteria that might do the pickling for you.
Traditional watermelon pickles are also sweet, and you really can’t get the sweet and sour, chutney-type flavor any other way than by using vinegar and sugar.
Other Pickle Recipes You’ll Love:
- Garlic Pickled Greens
- Zucchini Pickles with Rosemary and Sage
- Small Footprint Dill Pickles
- Dilly Pickled Snap Peas
- Heirloom Tomato Pickles
- 8 cups watermelon rind, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (equivalent to about one 5-pound watermelon)
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 4 cups raw cane sugar, or coconut sugar
- 2 cups raw apple cider vinegar
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 Tbsp. whole cloves
- 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
- 6 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces (or 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. allspice berries, or 1 tsp. ground allspice
- Trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the watermelon rind.
- Cut rind into small pieces, about 1" x 2" and measure out about 8 cups.
- Put the rind into a large, nonreactive container and cover with brine made by combining 3 quarts of the filtered water and the sea salt. Refrigerate overnight.
- In a saucepan, cover the watermelon rinds with the brine water and simmer until just fork-tender, about another 10 minutes. (Pay attention – Overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery.) Drain thoroughly.
- Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, 1 cup water and spices. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cooked watermelon rinds to the pan.
- Simmer watermelon rinds in the syrup until they become translucent, about 30 minutes.
- Pack the hot watermelon pickles and syrup into clean, hot pint or half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
- Wipe rims of jars with a dampened towel and apply two-piece metal canning lids. Without sealing, these pickles will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- To can and seal, submerge the full jars in boiling water (enough water so the jars are 1-2" below the surface); boil for 5 minutes (or slightly longer at higher altitudes).
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Photo credit: Cantaloupe Alone
Updated June 15, 2021.