The beginning of the summer is when you read about watermelon planting tips, but this is the time of year when you start to think: What do I do with all the fruits from my watermelon plant? If you are anything like me, you have been patiently watching your melons grow and grow these past few months and now you have finally reached the point where you have a bounty of fruit to enjoy.
When our first watermelon was ready, we chilled it, cut it up into slices and enjoyed the classic summer treat: outside on the porch, spitting seeds and making a huge mess. My family loves this tradition, but after about the 10th watermelon, it loses some of its charm. It was at this point that I decided to get creative and try to think of some new ways to enjoy our watermelon. I came up with six uses I’d like to share with you.
1. Watermelon Lemonade
This is so simple and delicious! Start by picking the seeds out of about a cup of watermelon. I usually do this by cutting it into small cubes then just breaking the cubes apart with my fingers and squeezing out the seeds. It’s tedious but also kind of relaxing. Throw your watermelon in the food processor and blend it into a puree. Divide this between two cups, fill the rest of the cup with Crystal Light lemonade, toss in a few big ice cubes, and you’re done! My stepsons love this and it gives them an easy serving of fruit. Did you know you can also brew sumac plant berries into a tart and refreshing lemonade?
2. Watermelon Popsicles
These start out the same way as the lemonade: de-seed and puree one and a half cups of watermelon. Add to the food processor: one cup plain yogurt, one tablespoon honey, and one teaspoon lime juice. Pulse to mix it up. Pour your mixture into four popsicle molds and stick in the freezer for about two hours. These are a nice, light treat. The lime accentuates the flavor of the watermelon, and the yogurt gives a bit of protein.
3. Watermelon Salad
If you are anything like us, you’ve probably been eating a lot of tomatoes in your salads. It’s also that time of year when there is a glut of that garden fruit. When you are looking for something different to serve before your meal, though, try this fresh summer salad. I start with a couple cups of de-seeded watermelon, broken into small pieces. Add about a cup of crumbled feta, several mint leaves torn up, and a splash of olive oil. You can also season it with a hint of lime juice, and salt and pepper. The sweetness of the watermelon is delightful paired with the saltiness of the cheese.
4. Watermelon Jam
I made this with a container of watermelon that I had cut up for my family, but no one was eating. They had reached their watermelon limit! I had about four cups of fruit, which I de-seeded and broke up into small chunks. I placed this in a saucepan, to which I also added three cups of sugar and a box of powdered fruit pectin. I cooked it until it started to liquefy; then used my immersion blender to break up any remaining pieces of watermelon. I continued to boil it, checking often to see when it started to roll off the back of the spoon in an even flow (vs. thin droplets). When it started to thicken, I poured it into small jam jars, wiped the rims, applied the bands and lids and processed it in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. The result was a mild jam, delicate and sweet.
5. Watermelon Rind Pickles
Now all this watermelon you’ve been eating has certainly left you with a lot of rind. Maybe you’ve added it to your compost pile, or perhaps thrown it away, but did you know you can preserve and eat it? I discovered the watermelon rind pickle earlier this year when I was looking for some use for all that waste. I admit I was skeptical at first about how they would taste, but I am a believer now! They are delicious: sweet and tangy. My husband described them in this way: “They taste almost like apple pie filling in a jar.” Here is my version of how to make them.
Cut off any remaining fruit from the rind. Use a potato peeler to remove the hard outer skin from the rind then cut it into one-inch chunks. A typical watermelon from my garden yields about 14-17 cups of rinds. Put the prepared rinds into a pot, cover with cold water and about one cup of salt. Cover it, and refrigerate overnight. On the next day, rinse your rinds in a colander. Put the rinds back into the pot and cover again with cold water. Bring them to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Drain your rinds in the colander again and leave it sit while you prepare the brine. To make the brine, combine equal parts sugar and white vinegar. I used about five cups of each. Also add three to five cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, mixing to dissolve the sugar. Add your rind back to the pot. Cook on low until the rinds are translucent, about 45 minutes. Pack your jars with rinds and fill with brine leaving a half-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply bands and lids and process in a hot water bath for ten minutes. My 12-pound watermelon yielded five pint jars.
6. A Treat For Your Chickens
If you have backyard chickens, like we do, you probably wonder about the safety of feeding chickens scraps. You might have even asked: can chickens eat watermelon? The answer is a definite yes! Our girls LOVE watermelon. I took out some of my smaller fruits to the coop, cut them in half, and let the chickens feast. Now when they see me walk in with a melon in hand, they swarm to me, and when I set it on the ground, it’s a fight to get in for a bite with pieces of watermelon flying around as they eat. Not only do they eat the pink flesh, but they continue to peck at it until they’ve eaten much of the rind as well. It’s a real treat for the birds on a hot afternoon and an easy use for your watermelon when the humans in your life just can’t eat it anymore.
I hope these tips will be useful for you as you are bringing in your watermelon plant’s bounty. Tuck these tips away somewhere handy if you’ve already worked your way through this year’s harvest. That way, next summer, when you are reading again about how to plant watermelon plant at the start of the season, you’ll already have a handle on what to do with the fruits of your labor. You can turn the product of that Sugar Baby watermelon plant into all kinds of treats for your family to enjoy.
What do I do with all the fruits from my watermelon plant at the end of the season?