It is odd what memories certain foods evoke. For me, watermelon does not automatically remind me of 4th of July family picnics or the ubiquitous platters watermelon (karpousi) served in Greek tavernas at the conclusion of a summer meal. Both of these memories would be quite normal. And, I do remember as a child eating a lot of watermelon on the 4th of July accompanied by intense pip spitting contests. Of course, in my own mind, I always won those contests. Similarly, I vividly recall consuming quantities of the sweet juicy red fruit in numerous Greek tavernas as an adult (although being more descrete about those pips).
Yet, the very first thing that pops into my mind is Richard Brautigan’s 1968 book, In Watermelon Sugar. Odd, but true. In Watermelon Sugar is a novel with (psychedelic) visions of an utopian society, (naturally) living close to nature in a post-apocalyptic world. Oh yes, many things in the book are made from watermelon sugar, extracted from different coloured watermelons that match the changing rainbow hues of each day’s sun. I did say psychedelic. It made a big impression on me in my youth, but if I were to pick it up now for a read, I am sure I would find it rather silly and dated – very hippy 1960s. Nonetheless, the sight of a watermelon still instantly recalls this book.
Watermelons are piled high in the summer markets and roadside stalls. There are at last two types to choose from – small round ones, slightly smaller than a basketball, and large oval ones that require a wheelbarrow to cart them home. The latter are often cut and sold in segments. Just F.Y.I., watermelon is made up of about 90% water and about 6% sugar.
Watermelon Limeade (G & T)
With Brautigan’s utopia in mind, I’ve created my own Watermelon Sugar concoction – with or without gin. The sweetness of the watermelon is perfectly offset by the tart lime and the bitter tonic.
- 1/2 of a small watermelon (4 cups chopped flesh) – yielding about 500ml juice
- 6-8 limes – yielding about 200ml of juice
- 500ml water
- 100g sugar (about 1/2 cup)
- Tonic water
- Gin, optional
First make a light syrup from the water and sugar by boiling until the sugar dissolves and it becomes slightly thickened (a few minutes). Set this aside to cool, then add the lime juice. Cut the watermelon and remove as many of the seeds as possible. Purée the red flesh in a food processor and press it through a strainer, reserving the liquid and discarding any of the solids. Blend both the lime mixture and the watermelon liquid. Decant into a bottle and store in the refrigerator.
Shake the bottle before serving as the ingredients will separate. Serve chilled over ice – half watermelon limeade, half tonic. A jigger of gin wouldn’t go amiss if you want to create an interesting cocktail – a Watermelon G & T.
NOTE: The watermelon limeade does not keep long; use within a day or two. Watermelon juice tends to lose its freshness quickly. The quantity made above is a little over a litre and is enough (with the tonic) to make approximately 10-20 drinks, depending on the size of your glass and how much ice you use. The recipe can be halved if you feel you will not use the quantities listed above in time.