Unripe watermelon

So, I picked my first watermelon last week. For ages, it had been pretty big, it made a hollow sound when tapped and it had the light yellow mark on its belly — all the marks of a ripe watermelon — but I was waiting for the damn thing’s skin to lighten. And then I realised that the variety I’d planted had dark skin so I went and picked the fucker.

It was delicious, but it had heaps of seeds. Which I figured was because I’d left it so long.


Hoping to avoid the same problem, I picked the next watermelon that looked ready, and which had the same colouring, but just wasn’t as big and old.


So here’s me going “bugger” (especially since I’d planned to make daiquiris with that one… and doubly so after I saw that it was still full of bloody seeds, ripe or not) when I remembered a recipe for a type of what I guess you’d call a pickle, though it’s more like a glacé-ing process, in the back of my Sicilian cook book, called zuccata.

The recipe specified under-ripe melon or overripe zucchini (in Sicily, they use cucuzza, which is a bland kind of squash or gourd). Check.

I peeled and gutted the damn thing, and chopped up the rind. Pips and juices went everywhere and I’m supposed to be resting my leg, but dammit, I was making the damn preserve.

And chopped it into half-inch pieces. It turned out I had over a kilo of the stuff.

It had to be sprinkled with salt, to remove some of the moisture, then rinsed after a few hours and soaked in fresh water for 12 hours. I was supposed to change the water every 3-4 hours but since I was going to soak it overnight (and had no intention of getting out of bed every few hours to change water) I figured it could just go into the fridge, wait until morning (when I could change the water) then wait another nine hours until I got home from work.

It seemed fine. It had gone sort of translucent, a little like sugar melon flesh.

Then, I had to leave it simmering for 40 minutes with three cups of sugar, a cup of water and two tablespoons of rosewater.

I’m not sure it went as planned; it ended up kind of soggy, when I’m sure glacé fruit is supposed to stay firm. Then again, there was no crystalising, as you should do when making glacé fruit; but the recipe didn’t say to simmer that long, only until the syrup had thickened.

I bottled it just as I would for jam, in sterile jars that I heated afterwards to make doubly-sure of the seal.

I’ll use it next time I make something that needs zuccata, and hope for the best.

UPDATE: Apparently this is one of my most popular blog posts. If you got here after googling, please comment and tell me what you were looking for, and if you found this useful!

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29 Responses to Unripe watermelon

  1. Hello visitors! My stats tell me that a lot of you end up here after googling “what to do with unripe watermelon” or similar. Please leave a comment and tell me your unripe melon story!

  2. Laurie says:

    HI, i didnt plant the melons they just appeared in my front yard. The first one I picked was big and i eventually picked it but it looked like your photo. It is winter now where I live and there is a melon that has been in the yard growing for weeks and weeks. I left it alone until the vine was all but dead and finally tonight I picked it. But it was yellow inside. I thought maybe its not a watermelon but some weird melon family member that you cant eat. So I googled what does an unripe watermelon look like and i found your picture of an unripe melon, it looks just like your picture. Watermelon is a summer fruit and I guess it didnt ripen because its winter, dont know, dont know anything about growing Melons. I wont bother using it though, although it was interesting to see how you used your unripe melon. Did you eat it and what did it taste like.

    • Hi there! There are actually yellow varieties of watermelon, are you sure it wasn’t one of those? If you didn’t plant the seed, you may have gotten a weird variety that’s one half of a hybrid of something.
      But yes, the recipe I mention in this post turned out nice. I think next time, though, I’ll try one of those southern American pickles, they looked interesting (although I hope there isn’t a next time for ages!)

  3. Jenn says:

    found this after wondering why my watermelon was unripe.. no answes, but jolly good post!

  4. Deb Isaacson says:

    After getting some rather strange looking squash in my squash patch I decided to check out your site after picking one of those odd looking things. My guess is we have 4 or 5 volunteer watermelons in my volunteer squash patch. It was supposed to be my pea,carrot and beet patch,but I threw the remains of a spaghetti squash in it to compost before planting the rest of the patch. I completely forgot about the spaghetti squash seeds til they sprouted up all over. I gave away many baby plants. There rest have taken up most of my back yard. I have the biggest patch in town I believe due to the peas and fish guts.I picked the largest melon/ squash? and found the inside white so I’m going to let the rest grow and see what happens.N central MN. isn’t known for melon weather so we’ll keep out fingers crossed I really like your site Thanks

    • Thanks for your reply! Yep, that whole family can be pretty weedy and take over everything. Hopefully it will give you lots of whatever it is, either way, and maybe it will end up being tasty fried… or pickled… or candied… depending on what it is! Extra points if it makes a good daiquiri 🙂

  5. Mari says:

    Tripped upon your page while looking for a recipe for unripe watermelons….I may give this recipe a try.

  6. Ellen says:

    Im going a bit crazy trying to find out if I can juice this unripe-still white inside-watermellon without getting poisoned or something. I’m gonna give it a try and will let you know how it turns out!

  7. Ellen says:

    as it turns out, I lived! I used it in a juice with lettuce and cucumber, a few berrys for sweetner, and it was good! Not my favorite juice, but it was better than I expected. So my answer is yes: you can eat raw, unripened (still white) watermellon.

  8. Kat says:

    Some 4 legged critters have been rooting around in the garden and pulled a teeny little watermelon off the vine – about the size of an orange. I was looking to see if they might ripen off the vine (they don’t) then was wondering if you can still eat it. I think mine is way too small, so I’m thinking batting practice. 🙂

  9. Hanna Verity says:

    I picked my first (and only) watermelon tonight – I’m looking for photos to see what unripe melons look like on the inside. I think mine might have been 80% ripe…

  10. Ariella says:

    I live in Montana and an early snow killed almost everything in my garden. My sugar baby watermelons are all just barely pink and I’ve been looking everywhere for a recipe for watermelon jam/preserves. I’m not sure if your recipe will work for me or not because mine are definitely more ripe than yours are. I’ve already chopped everything up and I have about 5 quarts. sigh.

  11. We bought some “sugar cube” melons (cucumis melo) at a clearout sale in late June, and planted them in the hottest, full-sun location in our (organic) community garden. It was still too late for them to ripen, even when we lifted the melons off the soil and placed a brick under them to help with warmth and avoid cooling moisture (the dew’s been heavy lately) so we have a dozen in various sizes. An early frost killed the vines, so even floating row cover’s no help now.

    Among our garden group we’re well versed with both canning and brining, but have never tried with melons. We’re looking for a method that doesn’t require a long heat process (because it’s very hot in Toronto this week), and for a method that doesn’t require refrigeration, and, hopefully, for one that gives us at least a few months of storage…

    We want the storage because between the brined cucumbers, turnips, radishes, and sunchokes, our fridges are full.

  12. Pingback: Sorry. I was trying to be funny but I was being a jerk | lisaslifelately

  13. Jack says:

    Ha, i googled almost the exact same thing you mentioned underneath me. Or over me, i dont know where the posts end up lol.

    I didnt even know i HAD melons. They were hiding under the trellis i slung the naked vines on like three weeks earlier. I went out to feed the dogs and the fish this morning, and there was a ten inch oblong watermelon in the yard! The damn dog plucked it and played with it. I havent opened it yet, but theres no way its ripe. No way im throwing it away, imma try this.

  14. Diane says:

    Well, after cutting two that surely seemed ripe, I refused to trash them. I am going to try your recipe. I am hopping that slpenda will work as a substitute as I am doing sort of an Atkins modified diet. I don’t like cucumbers but if my granddaughter were here she would eat this all up. She used to cry to eat all the rines of watermelon after finishing the watermelon. We let her do it and she never got the old saying of a stomachache. I have a dehydrator and I saw another recipe that used that to storta dry them out. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for posting or I would have kept on looking.

  15. Ann says:

    Googled eating under ripe watermelon. Thanks

  16. Cris says:

    Hi, I just picked a watermelon that looks just like your unripe one. It has been a mystery since it was planted, so I wasn’t even sure it was a watermelon! Perhaps I will try what you did with yours. And yep, I found you when googling for unripe watermelon to assure me that is what it is.

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