What to Do With an Unripe Watermelon

Back on the first weekend of August we were so excited to see how big our watermelons were getting. We checked all the signs of ripeness: good sound, firm skin, yellow bottom. So Kirk brought one in:

And we sliced it open:


This is not meant to be a yellow watermelon. It only even looks that way in the photo because of the lighting — it's really white throughout. It's Sweet Favorite, and it's supposed to be red. 

After the huge wave of disappointment rolled through the room, we all took a bite anyway. 

It's not sweet, but it's not sour or bitter, either. It tastes like watermelon, just without the sugar. Kind of like a watermelon-flavored cucumber.

It's too big to let go to waste, and we felt obligated to wrap it up and keep it in the fridge until we figured out something to with it.  

Dish #1: Watermelon Kachumber

Kachumber is an Indian salad that is normally made with cucumber. Here we used some of our unripe watermelon instead. It's basically chopped watermelon and tomato, plus some thinly sliced red onion. The dressing is a Tbs. each of lime juice and oil, plus 1/4 tsp. of ground cumin and a dash of cayenne. It's nice and refreshing, and the watermelon makes it more interesting than just regular cucumber. 

Dish #2: White Watermelon Spritzer

For this drink, I pureed about an eighth of the watermelon (which turned out to be about a third of a cup of puree), then strained out the seeds. I muddled three mint leaves with about a teaspoon of powdered sugar, then added some crushed ice. Then I poured in the watermelon puree, a shot of Pearl cucumber vodka, and topped it off with seltzer. This was a light, refreshing drink, and not too sweet. If you really don't like sweet drinks, you could skip the powdered sugar entirely, but I thought just a bit was good.

By the way, our watermelon has been in the fridge for a couple weeks now as we pick at it, finding uses for it. Because it's not very sugary, it's holding up very well. The reason I mention that at all, though, is because it was thoroughly chilled to make the drink.

I bet this would be good (and pink!) with regular watermelon also, but I'd probably cut that sweetness with a squeeze of lime. 

Dish #3: White Watermelon Sorbet

I have decided that unripe watermelon should be henceforth called "white watermelon," which makes it sound purposeful and delicious rather than like a big old gardening mistake.

Anyway, this dish makes use of my new favorite thing, the ice cream maker. I puréed the remaining half of the white watermelon (about 3 to 4 cups of chunks) and strained out the seeds. Then I added a simple syrup made from honey and infused with basil. That's pretty easy to make: bring 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/2 cup bruised basil leaves to boil. That goes fast, and doesn't need to be on the highest heat to make it happen (not that I learned that the hard way by boiling it over and making the house smell like a junior high science experiment or anything). When it's done, strain out the basil leaves and add the syrup to the watermelon puree. I also added the juice of 1 lime to brighten it up.

Chill the mixture in the fridge for about a half hour and put in the ice cream maker until it's done, then freeze it for a couple hours before serving. This recipe ended up making about a quart of sorbet. It freezes up pretty solid, so you may have to let it thaw a bit before serving so it's actually scoop-able.

Everyone liked this one! It's not super-sweet, but really refreshing. The combination of the basil and honey is great, and the lime finishes out the flavor by cutting through the sweetness of the honey. If you end up with a white watermelon (either by accident or on purpose before a frost), this is a great way to use it!


  1. Thanks so much for these great ideas! I just unwittingly bought an underripe watermelon and was going to give it to the chooks, but your recipes have inspired me.

    1. I'm glad! Our chicken do love a good watermelon, too. Or a not so good one--the ladies aren't as picky as we are!


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