pickled, watermelon

Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rind

This athletic superfood doubles as a healthy snack or salad ingredient.

Watermelon juice has made recent headlines as the next-big-athletic-performance-enhancer, but those of us who toss the rind may be missing out on its superfood potential. In fact, research shows that the white part contains an amino acid called citrulline. In a study published this year, researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK found that athletes who took citrulline supplements for seven days helped their endurance training by improving skeletal muscle oxygenation—the balance between the muscle’s oxygen demand and the body’s ability to deliver it—and speeding the rate of oxygen uptake during the tough cycling workout, explains study author Stephen Bailey, Ph.D. The athletes were taking concentrated doses, so while eating rind might not turn you into Mark Cavendish, it can’t hurt.

Benefits aside, frankly, watermelon rinds don’t taste very good. Enter Steven Satterfield, executive chef and co-owner of Miller Union in Atlanta and author of the new veg-forward Root to Leaf. “Watermelon pickles of yesteryear were loaded with sugar,” Satterfield says. This one replaces some of that sweetness with acid from summery lime and a handful of spices. Have it as a side dish, a healthy snack, or chop it up for a relish or toss it in a salad with arugula, grilled shrimp, feta, tomatoes, fresh sweet corn kernels and black beans in a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette, with torn fresh basil and cilantro on top.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

2½ pounds firm, fresh watermelon rind, green outer peel removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup kosher salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar or Champagne vinegar
1 cup sugar
12 whole cloves
12 whole allspice berries
3 cinnamon sticks

In a large, non-reactive pan over medium-high heat, boil together rind, juice, salt and enough water to cover the rind, then reduce heat to low and simmer, adding water if necessary, until rind is crisp-tender, 1 hour. Strain rind and cool. In same pan over medium-high heat, boil together vinegar, sugar and spices; reduce to a simmer and cook, 10 minutes. Pour vinegar mixture over rinds and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Pickled rinds will keep for several weeks.