Waste Not, Want Not: Watermelon Drinks + a Cool, Southern Bonus

For Our Little Sous, watermelon was always a special summer treat. At a cost of 3500-4500 yen (about $30-$40) for a very small melon (perhaps 4-6 lbs. in size), we probably only purchased one or two each summer while we lived in Japan. Having moved to Mexico, he was thrilled to see that this precious produce was priced much more reasonably.

Our Little Sous clearly recalls passing fields of perfectly good watermelon left out in the sun to rot, and our frustration that such fruit would never be offered for sale–even at a discounted price–simply because it was imperfect and, therefore, considered unacceptable for human consumption. Definitely a case of different cultural perspectives and practices surrounding food viability and waste.That’s why it was so exciting to see huge truckloads of this enormous, juicy summer fruit on the streets of Mexico. He was more than ready to take advantage of this tropical bounty, and I was more than happy to help!

First, a chance to exercise a bit of creativity. With such a large specimen, we knew we had a lot of cutting in our future, so we let Our Little Sous get a head start. After wielding a series of knives, large and small, he’d produced a goofy grin almost as endearing as his own.

Next up on the list was an agua fresca, or cool water, just one of the many flavors of sweet and refreshing beverages available from restaurants, street carts, and home kitchens throughout Mexico, especially during the hot summer months. Preparations for this one were really pretty simple. We began by trimming the dark green skin from the outside of the watermelon.

Since we only needed the bright red flesh for our beverage, we trimmed away the lighter rind, leaving a tiny sliver of pink for our bonus recipe (below). And, of course, in the process of all this cutting, we had to stop and taste!

Then, we threw the chunks into the blender, and Our Little Sous did all the hard work in 4 simple steps: puree, strain, ladle into a glass, and enjoy. Feel free to add a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lime, or a bit of your sweetener of choice as needed to suit your tastes.

We opted to slurp our aguas with a batch of breakfast burritos in whole grain tortillas–refreshing and delicious!

And now for our southern sustainability bonus: watermelon rind pickles! We began by bringing a large pot of water to a boil with a bit of sugar, spices (we used cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, mustard seeds, ginger, and bay leaves), and apple cider vinegar.

Next, we cut the leftover pieces of our watermelon rind into chunks and dropped them into the hot, flavorful liquid.

Finally, we put them in the fridge to cool overnight. In the morning, we placed the chilled treats in smaller jars to store for ourselves and to share with friends and neighbors. If they’ve never eaten them before, people never seem to guess what these pickles are made of, but they’re always intrigued by the little bits of pink left on the lighter greenish-white rind.

Super-sustainability bonus? Rather than being left with a ton of sticky, heavy, bulky watermelon rind to throw in the trash, we reduced our total waste to a single small bowl of just the outer dark green rind. All of the seeds we strained out were collected and passed on to a neighbor for growing more melon, while the pulp was tossed in with other green kitchen scraps and added to a different neighbor’s pig feed.

What do you usually do with your watermelon rind? What recipes do you have to use up leftovers, kitchen scraps, or food that might otherwise go to waste? We look forward to hearing your stories in the comments!