Have you tried making a tarbooz ke chilke ki sabzi ? In other words, a side dish made from watermelon rind.It’s popularly eaten in the arid regions of Rajasthan but it isn’t something that one is familiar with in the Southern States.
For the past few summers,we search and ferret out organically grown watermelon and savour every bit of it’s deliciousness down to the last bite.Having received a ripe juicy watermelon from our organic supplier this year,we’re looking forward to feasting on this seasonal treat as often as possible.
When it came to the rind,I would hesitate to throw it away.For starters it looked so pretty that it was a shame to throw it in the bin. As college girls we would consume enormous amounts of watermelon fresh off the roadside and would discard the rinds with nary a thought ! Last year while thumbing through one of my specialty cookbooks ,I saw a bit of trivia on pickled watermelon rind. That started off my rind exploits. After removing the outer skin, the pale ends went into a big pot of water with sea salt, natural sugar, dried herbs, chilli flakes and vinegar. After several minutes of a rollicking boil,it was left to simmer,reduce and then taken off the stove to cool. The long julienne bits turned appealingly translucent but still retained a bit of crunch.The sugar,vinegar and salt had worked it’s magic and the pickled watermelon tasted exactly like the bottled gherkins that we buy at the store. It livened up our cheese platters on more than one occasion. It also keeps very well in the refrigerator upto a year.
A habit of mine is to set aside interesting recipes to try out when ingredients are in season.The watermelon rind subzi was one of them.Since the first watermelon we tasted this season was so delicious ,it got us to try out this recipe with a lot more enthusiasm!
If we actually took a closer look,at the white portion at the base of the watermelon,it’s texture and consistency are similar to that of a cucumber. A lot of recipes suggest doing away with the slightest sliver of pink but to me that hint of blush at the edge of the white makes it that much more appealing. The difference in colours is also apparent after pickling and it adds to the delicate jelly like visual of the rinds.Technically it’s not the rind but it is the part that gets thrown away,hence the term.
We are slowly beginning to discover the benefits of all the extras that nature offers us and the watermelon rind is loaded with health benefits.It contains an amino acid called citrulline which relaxes the blood vessels, helps with easing muscular cramps and said to reduce heartburn. But in order to enjoy the benefits it is imperative to source watermelons that are free from chemicals and pesticides.
After subjecting the watermelon rind to a thorough scrutiny, we proceeded to cut them into thin batons before making the (tarbooz ke chilke ki subzi) curry. The recipe was quite straightforward consisting of ghee,dry spices and spice powders.
Having done a fair bit of reading up on the traditional concoction of ingredients makes me understand that the ghee adds protein which uplifts the nutrient content of this watery ingredient.Furthermore the spice powders add such a tasty contrast in flavours that it leaves you salivating for more. Not only were we happy with the outcome of this recipe but it made for an incredibly satisfying yet simple meal paired with phulkas.
This dish tastes good even when chilled. Not everyone likes to eat piping hot curries in summer.
So,the dark greens trips of the outer skin was the only part thrown in the compost bin.It feels so good to not waste and live as nature intended us to. Why not try your hand at a different kind of pickling this summer?
Doesn’t the picture look pretty…oh and by the way, those are actual watermelon leaves from a creeper that’s happily growing in my garden.The fruits unfortunately have fallen prey to bandicoots but the plant is flourishing so there’s still hope !