How to use watermelon in Appalachia -- nose to tail

By Candace Nelson - 10:00 AM


My latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail

In Appalachia, we like to make use of every part of an ingredient.

Take a carrot, for example. Chop and roast the root vegetable, then save the tops for a pesto or vegetable stock. Apples? Enjoy the fruit and use the skin and core to make a jelly. For potatoes, cube and boil the spuds to make mashed potatoes, but keep the peels to roast as a crispy topping for a casserole.

And then there’s watermelon.

Yes, watermelon. The pink meat of the fruit is often enjoyed at backyard barbecues or poolside gatherings, and the green rind — not to be tossed aside as waste — can then be pickled.

While not unique to Appalachia, this classic Southern tradition of pickling watermelon rind fits into West Virginia’s food culture.

Resourceful. Creative. Tasty.

Watermelon is thought to have originated in Africa thousands of years ago and spread through China, Europe and America. Now, it can be found at any family reunion, summer party or festival.

And pickling the watermelon rinds is a great way to not only make use of the whole melon, but also enjoy a bit of summer all year long. The pickled rinds are sweet, zesty, and full of vitamins B and C.

Depending on your choice of pickling spices, the rinds can be suited to your tastes. Add them to a summer charcuterie board, top tangy deviled eggs with them or even try them on a hot dog (just don’t tell West Virginia hot dog purists I suggested it).

This perfect Southern- turned-Appalachian snack gets at the heart of summer — and Appalachian values.

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