13 May 2010

Watermelon? How exciting!

Pickled watermelon rind

Waste not, want not. Pickled watermelon rind? Why not? I’ve done papaya, cucumber, bamboo shoot, cabbage, pepper, water spinach, okra, bitter gourd, chive — what’s one more?

But first, let’s talk about watermelons in general. What do you know about them? I ask because I overheard my mother saying something about their lack of nutritional value, and I realized that I didn’t know enough about the fruit to either bolster or refute her claim. The red melons typically sold at the market don’t help their cause any — so bland and unremarkable are they to inspire curiosity. It took some terrifically sweet ones to juice up my interest — pun fully intended. Besides, they were yellow! I hadn’t come across yellow watermelon before.¹ It was definitely time for a refresher course.

Ma was wrong. Watermelon is, in fact, rich in vitamins C, A, and B (in that order), and a good source of potassium and magnesium (details here). It is also an excellent source of phytochemicals (phyto = plant) like beta-carotene, lycopene, and citrulline. I’m sure you’ve heard the marketing buzz about the first two, but citrulline? It seems that once in the body, citrulline is converted into arginine, which in turn boosts the production of nitric acid, which produces the wonderful effect of relaxing blood vessels. Get it? No? I have one word for you: Viagra.

No kidding. And that’s just from eating the flesh. Imagine if you were to consume the rind as well — it’s just as packed with nutrients. Some quarters even insist that it has more.² I am in no position to weigh in on the issue, but just in case that thing about citrulline is true, I will gladly eat both. I don’t care if watermelon rind is virtually devoid of taste. A guy gets to a certain age, he could use some help here and there. Especially there.

To think that we had been relegating such help to the waste bin all this time. You’d be surprised at how much of the watermelon we actually don’t utilize. I netted eight cups of grated rind (minus the peel) from three fruits weighing an average of 3.5 kilograms. That was a lot of nutrients otherwise wasted. I was concerned the strands would be too brittle and turn to mush, but they held up pretty well. Just don’t rough them up too much.

One more thing. The grated rind looked like it could have been green papaya. Once pickled, you’d be hard-put to tell the difference. It even had the same texture and mouthfeel. We had guests at dinner last night and Ma made them guess what the pickle was.³ “Papaya?” they said. “Chayote? Radish?” They would never have gotten it right if a watermelon climbed onto their laps and crooned ‘Hello It’s Me’.

If only I let them in on its supposed Viagra-like effect. Now that would have made for interesting conversation. But I could not be bothered, see? I was too busy fantasizing about going commercial with the pickle. I am feeling so entrepreneurial these days. Can you blame me? That’s one lucrative niche market right there. Move over, Viagra and Cialis — here comes the Great Golden Hope! It’s cheap, 100% natural, and has loads of extra nutrients to boot. Plus it has none of the stigma of being found out in public with a conspicuous blue (or orange) pill. It’s just a pickle, after all. And when in one, you can always say it’s papaya.

¹ Also known as Baby Doll, Butterball, Chiffon, Early Moonbeam, Gold Strike, Honey Heart, Midas Touch, Solid Gold, Summer Gold, Sunshine, Treasure Chest, Yellow Baby, and Yellow Rose — among many, many others (see this extensive list of watermelon cultivars). «

² According to one scientific paper (PDF|HTML), as far as citrulline is concerned, the answer is yes — on a dry weight basis, whatever that is. And guess which watermelon has it the most? The yellow, of course!

Also from the same paper: “Watermelon is the richest known source of citrulline, and it is thought that this amino acid plays an important role in drought tolerance. In wild watermelon collected from the Kalahari desert, citrulline accumulated to as much as 50% of total amino acid content in leaves after watering was with-held for five days.” «

³ For the pickling solution, see this recipe. This time I only used half a cup of sugar. «

Remember the old Willie Nepomuceno joke? Q: What do a prostitute and a watermelon vendor have in common? A: Magpapakwan. «

This post has 1 comment.

  1. Yeah, what is one more? Love it and it looks tasty. Magpapakwan ka talaga...


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