A bite of cold watermelon and more in this salad

One of the farmers I visited with at the market this morning chuckled when I told him I was in search of a watermelon. “Did you forget you are living in Minnesota?” he said with humor in his voice. “Minnesota is not the place to find a locally grown watermelon — yet.”

Minnesota farmers who jump-start their planting very early in the spring in a high tunnel could be hauling ripe, juicy watermelons to market before too long. A high tunnel is a structure that looks a lot like a greenhouse. Plastic sheeting is stretched across U-shaped metal pipes. The plastic on the sides can be opened to let in air on warm days. The internal temperature is warmer than the outside temperature, but just as important, the soil warms much more quickly. The plastic covering adds about 6 weeks to the growing season by acting as a solar heater.

I left the market with a savoy cabbage, some ground bison and a smoked bison bone for my golden retriever, Gracie. I headed to the supermarket to pick up a seedless watermelon shipped in from California.

I haven’t discovered a foolproof way of determining which watermelon in the bin at the store will be the sweetest and juiciest. Some people give them a thump and listen for a certain sound. I’ve tried that method, but I’m never sure if I’m hearing the sound that signifies perfection in a watermelon. Some inspect the stem end — I’m not sure what they are looking for. I just pick up each hefty melon. When I find the one that is the heaviest for its size, I take it. That’s the one that must be full of juice.

Most people think of watermelon as a one-dimensional fruit, slicing it up and eating it plain as dessert or a sweet snack. But, it’s also good in a savory salad or pureed to make the base of a chilled soup. In my column this week, I share a recipe for Chilled Watermelon Soup that tingles the taste buds.

If your fresh green salads are getting a tad boring, give this watermelon salad a try. Chunks of sweet, juicy watermelon nest on a leaf of romaine lettuce. A splash of fresh lime juice gives the salad zing and pulls all the other flavors together. Ribbons of chocolate mint, crumbles of feta cheese and chopped raw pistachios make fine partners for watermelon.

Watermelon Salad is unusual, for sure. But, the combination of flavors will delight your taste buds.

I’ll be anxiously waiting for the high tunnel watermelons to show up at the farmers market. Locally-grown watermelon in Minnesota — now that’s unusual.

Watermelon Salad

For each serving:

  • Place a leaf of Romaine lettuce on a salad plate.
  • Pile bite-sized chunks of chilled, seedless watermelon on the lettuce.
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice over the watermelon cubes.
  • Crumble feta cheese and scatter over watermelon.
  • Sprinkle all with chopped mint (I used chocolate mint from my garden).
  • Finish with a sprinkling of chopped raw pistachio nuts.



12 thoughts on “A bite of cold watermelon and more in this salad

  1. Pingback: Cucumber-Mint Sorbet and Recipe Roundup | The Heavy Table - Minneapolis-St. Paul and Upper Midwest Food Magazine and Blog

  2. hi Sue–great soup recipe. just had a wonderful watermelon salad with feta cheese and a splash of good (underline) balsamic vinegar with some thyme as garnish–would prefer some mint.

    • I agree, Patt. Mint sounds like a more refreshing and flavorful accompaniment to watermelon than thyme. Do try the Chilled Watermelon Soup, too. It’s another refreshing dish on a hot August day.

  3. p.s. forgot to add that there was no lettuce involved with the salad just the melon, cheese and vinegar.

  4. Hi Sue, I’m your biggest Texas fan and follow your recipes pretty much daily!! With the 100 degree temps anything cool is a treat for the taste buds right now. We make a similar salad with romaine, watermelon, croutons and bacon! Super delicious with a parmesan/pepper dressing! Thanks for your great ideas – Carla

    • Carla, your salad sounds so unique. Smoky bacon with watermelon and Parmesan/pepper dressing sounds like a combination I’ll have to try. The Chilled Watermelon Soup in my column this week should be just what the Texas doctors order to beat that heat! Thanks for taking time to write, Carla!

      • Hi Sue, I wondered if you would recognize my name…I worked briefly in the Center for Child Developement under Greg Sanders and would look forward to your home made treats – especially the little ginger bread men at Christmas displayed so cute it their little basket….that was a while ago; but I have always been your fan and follower since seeing your column in the Forum.

        • Carla, I wondered if it was you. You’re right — those NDSU days were a long time ago. It is great to hear from you! I didn’t know you had moved to Texas.

  5. Hi! I’ve heard to look for the watermelon with the obvious brownish flat spot (which is always the one I’ve avoided in the past) because it has sat on the vine the longest and ripened. Hasn’t been wrong since I’ve tried this method!

    • Thanks for the tip, Heather. I’ll hunt for the biggest brown spot on the flat side of the watermelon. It seems some of the seedless watermelon I’ve seen in the stores don’t have an obvious flat side.

  6. I just had to tell you the recipe looks yummy :) And also that my family and I grew watermelon last summer right here in Bemidji, MN :) I purchased the plant from one of our local master gardeners and planted it in my garden in early June. By the end of August we had harvested 3 very decent size watermelons. So it is possible if started in the house early enough, which most people don’t have the patience for :)


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