Grilled Watermelon? Why Not?

Cecilia Morton

Watermelon is traditionally eaten raw, right? Long summer afternoons, picnics, even barbecues all feature watermelon in its natural state, whether it’s being eaten directly off the rind or more daintily cut up into chunks and consumed with forks.

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A little history

Watermelons probably had their start in southern Africa—you can still see it growing wild there, with lots of different kinds of melon (sweet, bitter, and bland). And we have evidence that watermelon was cultivated in the Nile river valley in Egypt from the second century BCE onward. In fact, there are watermelon seeds at Kind Tut’s tomb! Watermelon traveled from there to India and China, and the Chinese in particular fell in love with it: China is now the largest watermelon producer in the world. European colonists brought the sweet fruit to the New World and for us in America… that was a great moment in history!

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Healthy

We love watermelon. And watermelon loves us back. Watermelons are mostly water — about 92 percent — but this refreshing fruit is soaked with nutrients. Each juicy bite has significant levels of vitamins A, B6, and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants, and amino acids. There’s even a modest amount of potassium. What’s not to love?

How do you eat watermelon?

But then we come back to how to eat it. And Stephanie Barlow from the National Watermelon Promotion Board is anxious for people to know that there are a lot of ways to prepare and consume watermelon… not all of them obvious. In this video she shows how to move watermelon from dessert to the main course by changing its nature from sweet to savory.

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Her grilled spicy watermelon is Thai-inspired. Asian cooking is filled with recipes for dishes that combine sweet and spicy, and this is no exception. Grilling watermelon is unexpected and sure to please the party anytime of year.

Here’s how to do it

image4_compressedYou want to start with your grill on high: the hotter, the better. You can absolutely do this on an outdoor grill (and surprise your friends and neighbors when they see what you’re grilling!), but you can also do it indoors on a grill pan.

Take out a small bowl or even a measuring cup; you’re going to make a sauce here. Now you’re going to combine 1 T. lime zest, ¼ c. lime juice, 3 T. of honey, 2 t. of garlic chili sauce, and a pinch of salt. Mix them all together thoroughly for a nice sauce. Keep another 3 T. of honey on the side.

Now you will cut a medium-sized watermelon into one-inch-thick wedges. Take your reserved honey and brush your watermelon wedges lightly with it, and then place the wedges on your grill. Let them cook until they just start becoming caramelized and brown (this should take about two minutes on each siimage5_compressedde of the wedge).

Remove the watermelon chunks, put them on your plate, and drizzle the sauce over them.

When to serve it

This is an unusual dish and it works really well as a side dish to accompany anything else you’re doing on the grill, like grilled meats or fish. The watermelon will both keep you hydrated and will be the perfect accompaniment to other dishes… and a surprise to anyone who’s never had watermelon as anything but a dessert before!