I’ve long held a controversial position that runs counter to science, and now is the time to make it clear: Watermelon isn’t as delicious as it once was.
Sure, every summer you can find one or two extremely juicy, sweet, and crunchy. But more often than not, the watermelons I hold in my hand — whether from the daily grocery store or at the farmers market — are pale and shriveled.
On the contrary, the watermelons I grew up in the South are so juicy, you have to take them out and cut them in half, then rinse the water off the tables and the patio. Shaped like an elongated pill too large for the Jolly Green Giant to swallow, they are filled with black seeds. During our two-day high school soccer practice at the height of summer – aka hell on earth in the South – our coach would bring us watermelon instead. for water during our break. With a pinch of salt sprinkled on top of seasonings to balance out the rich sweetness, that watermelon is tastier than any Gatorade drink can attempt to be.
The watermelons I’ve encountered since then don’t live up to the ones I picked up in the South. New York’s colder climate and drier California landscape have an effect on that, but I think the real culprit is when the watermelon loses its seeds. Most watermelons sold in grocery stores these days are “seedless” – they’re technically seeded, they’re just really small and not crunchy so you don’t mind eating them. But in the process of going from seeded to seedless, I feel most watermelons have lost their sweetness and flavor.
Scientists confirm that seedless watermelons are just as delicious as seeds. They say it’s all just nostalgia. Maybe, but my partner, an avid watermelon seeker, spends the summer buying watermelons at least every other day. The consistent factor in the good varieties he found was that they had traditionally large seeds. Even other chefs and food industry people with whom I chat at farmers markets and over dinner will sometimes acknowledge the low quality of watermelons these days, especially if I share a negative opinion. their favorites about them first.
All of this to say, watermelon needs a little help sometimes. And if you can’t find a watermelon with giant pillow-shaped seeds, I still want you to enjoy that fruit because, Father, there’s something really wonderful about the sweet, cold, crunchy melon flesh. and that crunch when you find the perfect specimen. So instead of avoiding watermelon for the rest of my life, I’ve turned to pre-thinking my melons to help make any melon more expensive.
Of course, this technique is not new. Adding salt and sugar, often spices, to melons is how many of us eat it. But I’m talking about using salt and sugar not only as a flavoring agent but also to remove excess moisture in the watermelon so that you can concentrate its flavor to the fullest, similar to how you make with sliced cucumber. I like to cut up chunks of watermelon, pour it into a colander that I have placed in my sink, then sprinkle it liberally with a large pinch of salt and the same amount of sugar. I toss the melons to make sure they are evenly coated, then let stand for 20 or 30 minutes. Usually, I would put that colander in a bowl, then put it in the fridge to keep the melons as cold as ice.
Once done, there is usually at least ½ cup to 1 cup of liquid coming out of the melon. The melon itself has a rich flavor – the perfect dip for a snack on a hot afternoon. But this summer, I’m going one step further and making my own sweet watermelon salad. Well, a salad can be a stretch since it’s essentially just watermelon coated in a spicy sauce and topped with other aromatics that go with it.
I love watermelon salad, but even the best kalamata-oliu and tomato versions can go stale. Instead of the pickled salad, I’ll use tahini. Its rich taste makes a perfect contrast with the lean, sweet, crunchy part of melon. I make the traditional tahini sauce with a few slices of jalapeño peppers and lots of lemon and garlic juice, and flavor it with toasted coriander and cumin seeds. The delicious sauce is dripped over the watermelon, then topped with fresh mint leaves (also in the sauce), chopped pistachios for a crunchy side dish, and even slices of jalapeño peppers. But instead of using them raw, I soak the chili slices in that exhausted sweet and salty watermelon wine. It’s a great use of something you normally throw away. The salt and sugar help tame the roughness of the jalapeño slices so they are pleasant – not shocking – on top of the salad.
This dish is my new favorite way to get the most out of regular seedless watermelons from the grocery store. I would make it all summer long every time I came across a smaller specimen, seasoning it with salt and sugar, then topping it off in this rich, spicy, and spiced sauce. It’s my way of turning lemons into lemonade, or more appropriately, freshly-ripened melons into a cool summer salad worth remembering those watermelons from days gone by.
Get the formula:
yieldsServes 6 to 8
https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-07-13/summer-seedless-watermelon-flavor-restored-salting A can’t-miss flavor boost for pallid, seedless watermelons