We usually think of watermelon as a galumphing fruit with a sweet, juicy middle and a bothersome amount of useless white rind. But maybe this will help you change your perspective: Watermelon is Cucurbitaceous, which means it’s a cousin of cucumber, zucchini, and squash. So after the sweet stuff is gone, just pretend the leftover rind is a squash and have at it! Here are some ideas for making them delicious, because a rind is a terrible thing to waste.
First: Wash the outside of the melon before you begin. Trim away all of the inedible thin green outer skin, and cut away the colored flesh, leaving only the thick, white band of rind. (It’s okay to leave a wisp of red.)
Raw watermelon rind is fine to eat, crisp and fresh but bland. It tastes best when cooked and seasoned, when it becomes a doppelgänger for summer squash, zucchini, and especially mirliton (a.k.a. chayote).
Herb-Dosed Roast – Cut the rind into ¾-inch cubes. Although fine alone, the mild rind is more interesting when mixed with equal-sized cubes of summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, and/or sweet peppers. Toss with enough olive oil to moisten, season generously with salt and pepper, and spread into a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 375°F until tender and browned on the edges, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. While hot, toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, minced garlic, and more oil. A drizzle of balsamic and a handful of grated cheese won’t hurt. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Candied – Like citrus peel, watermelon rind can make a refined candy. Cut the rind into thin strips, 2 inches long and a scant ½-inch wide. 1 to 2 cups of strips is a reasonable amount. Stir together 1½ cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, and a wide strip of lemon or lime zest in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the rind and simmer gently until the strips are translucent, about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Use a fork to lift the strips out of the pan, letting the syrup drip away. Toss the strips in granulated or sanding sugar until they are evenly coated. Arrange the strips in a single layer on a tray lined with parchment paper. Set aside to dry until they are no longer tacky, 2 hours to one day, depending on the humidity. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Asian-Style Quick Pickles –With a vegetable peeler, shave the rind into 2- or 3- inch ribbons, enough to measure 1 cup. Place them in a nonreactive bowl. Bring ½ cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and a fat pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to a boil, stirring. Pour over the rind. If the ribbons are not submerged, add more vinegar straight from the bottle. Cover and let stand for at least one hour. Store refrigerated for up to three days. Great for munching, these are also wonderful on sandwiches or barbecue.
Pick-Up Sticks – These little treats are hot, crispy, and ready to dip into warm marinara or cool Ranch dressing, just like zucchini sticks. Cut the rind into 3-by-½-inch sticks to total about 3 dozen pieces. In a shallow bowl, beat 2 large eggs. On a plate, stir together 1 cup breadcrumbs, ½ cup finely grated Parmesan, and 1 tablespoon dried herbs of your choice. Season with salt and pepper.
Dip the sticks into egg, then coat in the crumb mixture. Arrange in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 12 minutes. Turn the sticks over and continue baking until both sides are browned and crispy, about 8 minutes more. Serve hot with a dip. The number of servings is inversely proportional to the number of beers.