Fermented foods for immunity : pickled watermelon pith
Fermented pickles are not an accidental occurrence. Fermentation itself isn’t an accidental inclusion into human dietary habits. Fermentation was there before humans evolved so there is no question whether humans tasted the first fermented foods before or after a certain milestone of evolutionary process. They tamed the process of fermentation after they started cultivation of food for sure.
Humans always knew fermented foods are good for their gut even though they didn’t realise (in prehistoric times) there is a thriving population of bacteria in their stomach that helps in so many ways. Evolutionary wisdom is something humans tapped quite well I believe, fermentation is one of those evolutionary wisdom acquired over millennia and refined according to the climate and geography.
Coming to the present times, fermented foods are immensely useful in boosting immunity that we need during the COVID-19 outbreak. Using different types of fermented foods made with different vegetables and fruits is great to include because each one will have a slightly different set of microbial flora, mineral content and vitamin exudates into the ferment, helpful for the gut and hence its overall impact.
I have shared sauerkraut, black carrot kanji, pineapple kanji, winter water pickle recipes earlier and you can keep alternating them for your everyday consumption.
We are talking about watermelon pith pickle today. This is one of those fermented recipes that comes from the lineage of culinary cultures from hot tropical and desert regions of India. The marwadi, khatri and baniya communities of north India come from similar type of geographical regions and have used gourds for pickling for many generations. The lauki ka achar is possibly an ancient recipe, considering lauki or bottle gourd is one of the native vegetables of the country. The lauki ka achar is shared on Banaras ka khana blog here and this watermelon pith pickle is similar to that, though the process of preparing the pickle is a little different.
This pickle of watermelon pith or peel, whatever you wish to call the discard after eating the red juicy part of the fruit, is basic recipe that can be made with small variations too. Will add those variations in the last.
To clean and cut the watermelon pith, you need to peel the watermelon neatly so you can cut the pith portion in nice batons or bite size chunks. If you decide to eat the watermelon wedges directly, the pith won’t be fit for pickling.
See the picture how to cut watermelon in half lengthwise first and then in slices. Then separate the red juicy part and the white pith with green skin. The hard green skin needs to be removed neatly with a sharp knife. We don’t want rough edges in the pickled pieces of watermelon pith.
Note that if you decide to pickle the watermelon pith, do not treat it like garbage but like a perfectly edible ingredient that’s going to be a nourishing, delicious pickle to pair with your gourmet meals. Watermelon pith makes delicious subzi and salad as well, some I have shared on my Instagram profile over the past years.
Ingredients for the watermelon pith pickle
Watermelon pith batons or pieces to fill a clean sterilised glass jar of 1 liter capacity
Yellow mustard powder 1.5 to 2 tbsp
Red chilli powder 2-3 tsp
Salt 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp (optional)
Boil one liter of water and cool down.
Fill all the pickles ingredients in the glass jar and pour the boiled and cooled water over it.
Close the lid and keep it on your kitchen platform or a sunny window. You can shake it once everyday for two days. In Indian summers it takes two or three days to get pickled.
If you are using about 25% of the pickling water from the previous batch of this pickle it will get ready overnight.
The sour taste, slightly translucent appearance of the watermelon pith batons and a pleasant fermented aroma is an indication of the pickle being ready for consumption.
The pickle keeps well on room temperature for a week, it keeps getting sour so refrigerate before the sourness starts getting too much. The pickling water turns to vinegar after a point.
In the fridge the pickle keeps for a month easily if you don’t manage to contaminate it.
Serving suggestions for watermelon pith pickle
This tart pickle pairs really well with all Indian fried foods like poori subzi, chhole bhatoore, pakodas, parathas, dal and rice, khichdi etc.
You can also use it with your sandwiches and burgers if you have cut in desired shapes.
The pickle can be chopped fine and used as a topping over your noodles, congee, stews and soups etc.
The chopped pickle and its pickling water makes a wonderful salad dressing for lentil salads and potato salads.
Finely chopped watermelon pith pickle can be mixed with hung curd along with garlic and pepper to make a delicious dip.
Variations in the watermelon pith recipe
Add ginger julienne for added punch in this pickle. You can chop the watermelon pith too in thin julienne for this pickle.
Add slit green chillies for added flavour.
Add chopped kale or cabbage or radish to the watermelon pitch pickle and make it almost like sauerkraut.
Add the gochujang paste, fish sauce and garlic to make it into a kimchi like pickle.
All these variations or the watermelon pith pickle will have great flavour and nutrient profile. Keep adding these fermented pickles in your meals everyday and improve your overall health, boost your immunity while eating all the delicious foods.
Being naturally fermented, this pickle is probiotic and since watermelon pith has good quality fiber for the got flora it is a great source of prebiotics as well. Do try this watermelon pith pickling and let me know if you like.