Green melon pickle (midori-no suikazuke)

I made this up. I don’t even know if it’s a thing. But I harvested a green watermelon, only in its infancy, and peeled, seeded, sliced and pickled it. And it was fucking good.

Let me back up. I was in the garden, and the mystery cucurbit vine that I never planted was getting big, flowering yellow flowers. I’d seen it growing there for awhile, assuming that I’d either lost some seed while sowing, or that some rogue seed from the compost had germinated and gone gangbusters. I looked closely at the tendrils and twines and saw my vine was bearing fruit. The one I picked was much bigger than the one in this photo, like the size of a softball. I really had no clue what it was – I hadn’t planted anything there, but the cucumbers I had planted never came up. Had the seed fallen out of my pocket and gotten some dirt kicked on it? This sure was strange-looking. I picked it, brought it in the house, and sliced it open.

Inside, I saw the familiar cucurbit seeds, surrounded by a white, pithy, endocarp and outside of that by a crisp, pale green mesocarp. (Forgive the technical terminology, but when I’m stumped I always have to break things down scientifically. It’s how I do.) I smelled the flesh: green, watery, slightly fruity. More like cucumber perfume than cucumber, but even then, not that cucumbery at all.

I nibbled. Crisp, clean, grassy.

What the hell was this? Anymore, it didn’t matter what it was, because it was delicious. I peeled it, seeded it, and sliced it thin. I dressed it with rice vinegar, salt and sugar, and sprinkled some black sesame seeds on top.

As I thought about it while the tsukemono did its thing, I remembered the pig roast back in June. I served succulent slices of glistening watermelon that day. I never buy seedless watermelon, don’t believe in it. Now I figure someone stood around the roasting pit, juice dripping down their chin, as they slurped up on that watermelon, lazily letting the seeds slip out of their lips, the way God intended a watermelon to be eaten. Those seeds found a little warm earth to set down roots, and pretty soon I had watermelon vines that I never planted.

I named this pickle midori-no suikazuke, because I thought this would be delicious as a Japanese pickle (tsukemono). Midori-no refers to its being green. Suika is the word for watermelon, and –zuke is a suffix used for many types of pickle. I don’t know if this is proper etymology of a pickle, but it sure tastes like one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Marc at No Recipes has graciously informed me that the word for ‘green’ isn’t synonymous with ‘unripe’ in Japanese (as it is in English), and that this would more accurately be named aoi suikazuke. Thanks, Marc!