Monday, August 25, 2008

Green melon pickle (midori-no suikazuke)

I made this up. I don't even know if it's a thing. But I harvested a green watermelon, only in its infancy, and peeled, seeded, sliced and pickled it. And it was fucking good.

Let me back up. I was in the garden, and the mystery cucurbit vine that I never planted was getting big, flowering yellow flowers. I'd seen it growing there for awhile, assuming that I'd either lost some seed while sowing, or that some rogue seed from the compost had germinated and gone gangbusters. I looked closely at the tendrils and twines and saw my vine was bearing fruit. The one I picked was much bigger than the one in this photo, like the size of a softball. I really had no clue what it was - I hadn't planted anything there, but the cucumbers I had planted never came up. Had the seed fallen out of my pocket and gotten some dirt kicked on it? This sure was strange-looking. I picked it, brought it in the house, and sliced it open.

Inside, I saw the familiar cucurbit seeds, surrounded by a white, pithy, endocarp and outside of that by a crisp, pale green mesocarp. (Forgive the technical terminology, but when I'm stumped I always have to break things down scientifically. It's how I do.) I smelled the flesh: green, watery, slightly fruity. More like cucumber perfume than cucumber, but even then, not that cucumbery at all.

I nibbled. Crisp, clean, grassy.

What the hell was this? Anymore, it didn't matter what it was, because it was delicious. I peeled it, seeded it, and sliced it thin. I dressed it with rice vinegar, salt and sugar, and sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top.

As I thought about it while the tsukemono did its thing, I remembered the pig roast back in June. I served succulent slices of glistening watermelon that day. I never buy seedless watermelon, don't believe in it. Now I figure someone stood around the roasting pit, juice dripping down their chin, as they slurped up on that watermelon, lazily letting the seeds slip out of their lips, the way God intended a watermelon to be eaten. Those seeds found a little warm earth to set down roots, and pretty soon I had watermelon vines that I never planted.

I named this pickle midori-no suikazuke, because I thought this would be delicious as a Japanese pickle (tsukemono). Midori-no refers to its being green. Suika is the word for watermelon, and -zuke is a suffix used for many types of pickle. I don't know if this is proper etymology of a pickle, but it sure tastes like one.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Marc at No Recipes has graciously informed me that the word for 'green' isn't synonymous with 'unripe' in Japanese (as it is in English), and that this would more accurately be named aoi suikazuke. Thanks, Marc!


Manggy said...

Looks very refreshing Heather! Hey, isn't that a honeydew? (I'm just guessing-- I don't know too much about melons :)

peter said...

Later today- you know, when the sun comes up- I will be making unripe honeydew pickle by brining it in kimchi juice. Funny coincidence.

Foodycat said...

Yum! So in a couple of weeks are you going to have lovely fat pink watermelon?

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

WTF is that last pic? That shite is scary. For real. The head from the pig roast?
The melon looks like honeydew. The outside doesn't though. We need to find out WTF this melon is. For real. How crazy is it that something you didnt plant grew up in the way that it should go and it ended up being delicious?

You like how I said "we"? Like I'm a scientist like you. Pffft.

kittie said...

Trust you to grow a watermelon by accident!

Ingenious use of cut-too-early fruit though :)

Caviar and Codfish said...

What an awesome thing that a watermelon grew out of someone's dribble!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

I love stray plants. It's so fun to figure out what they are going to be. I get a lot of them from the bird feeders. I have never really thought to pickle them though. Once again Heather, a true inspiration!

glamah16 said...

CS and I are arguing as to if that is a pig skull from the roast or a goat. A sacrificial goat? Hahaha.
I love it when you talk science. Your dring cutting it up and eating it. Most likely your theory about the fallen seeds.

Heather said...

Mark - Naw, I never served any honeydew, and the outside of the seemed too stripy. The color of the flesh looks like it, though.

Jube - Uncanny. That sounds really good, too. Have you tried pickling your own bellflower (Platycodon) root?

Foodycat - I will if I can resist picking it! I hope we have warm weather long enough.

Nikki - I will keep you posted on what I learn about that vine. ;) (and yeah, it's the skull from the pig roast)

Kittie - Haha, I also have a lovely heirloom cantaloupe growing out of my compost heap. If I keep my compost as healthy as I should, it might stay warm enough to keep growing!

Robin - Yeah, usually I just end up with spit on my shoes.

Judy - My yard is also covered with thistle, millet plants and little scrabbly sunflowers, thanks to the bird feeders. :)

Coco - It is the skull from the roast, but I could use a goat for my collection (I have a rad skull collection from my adventurin' in the field).

maybelle's mom said...

delicious. I bet it would be delicious served alongside miso grilled fish. Or, very late at night with beet.

Peter G said...

Looks like a cross between honeydew and a cucmber...your own very creation. Pickling it was perfect (as Peter would prefer)..oh god! there's my aliteration for the day!

[eatingclub] vancouver || js said...

What a cool story. I love the genesis of your watermelon vine and I can certainly imagine it being delicious.

I'll tell the story to children. See what happens when people feed people? Generosity begets green watermelons. ;)

Bellini Valli said...

When I lived in the East squirrels were the culprits for having odd things grow where they shouldn't be:D

Leif erik Sundstrom said...

DUDE! I totally needed those as a garnish for my Cucumber Gazpacho the other night (mmmm, want the recipe?) I used a few fried shrimp instead, but i think i need your pickled melon as well. What do you think?

Helen said...

I have a thing for pickles. My mum once told me I used to eat so many pickles my lips went white when I was a child (I don't know why she didn't stop me either). I still can't get enough of them now. I love the idea of pickling melon. Loving the watermelon plant too. Loving it.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

AWESOME! You must have been Japanese in a past life. We make pickles like this out of the rind of fully matured watermelon in my podunk hometown. This looks like it would be much better.

Sorry I haven't been around much, work has really been kicking my ass.

Since you asked, midori is not typically used to mean "unripe", instead we say "aoi" which means green (but also blue... yea we're not so good with our colors). Also, watermelon is suika, so I guess this would be Aoi Suikazuke. At any rate it kudos for the effort:-)