Two Fabulous Watermelon Salads

Watermelon, fennel and feta makes a refreshing and unique alternative to a green salad

by Kathy Witkowsky

It’s been an unusually cold and wet spring, but the co-op has mini-watermelons in stock–so let’s pretend it’s summer, shall we?

Watermelon, more often than not, is thought of as a dessert, with a little bit of summer recreation—seed-spitting contests—built in. And it does well in that role. But watermelon also dresses up very nicely.  Add some salty cheese, herbs, spice and a little citrus, and it makes a wonderful and unusual alternative to a green salad, particularly when you use seedless or small watermelons, whose seeds are so delicate that they’re not bothersome.

Native to Africa, watermelons were also cultivated in ancient Egypt, where, according to The Oxford Companion to Food, they were featured on wall paintings dating to before 2000 B.C . Their high water content made them an excellent source of hydration where clean water was not available, thus encouraging their spread throughout the middle east, and eventually to India and China. Watermelons later came to the Americas direct from Africa, brought by slave-traders, which explains why they sometimes have racist connotations. But please don’t let that stop you from enjoying this beautiful fruit.

Feta, mint and chili powder is another way to go with watermelon

I got inspired to play around with watermelon salads after I saw a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful cookbook Plenty, for a middle eastern-inspired  one with feta, red onion and basil salad. For the following two salads, I stuck with the feta, which adds the necessary salty taste, but swapped out the olive oil he uses for lime juice, and instead of basil used fennel in one recipe and mint in the other. And I added some heat to each of them, too—diced jalapenos in one, a pinch of chili powder in the second.  I kept the red onions for the first recipe, though I softened their bite by pouring boiling water over them–a trick I learned from cookbook author Deborah Madison.

Both recipes are gorgeous and delicious, and quick and easy to make, though be aware that these salads should be consumed within an hour or so of creation, as they get watery if they sit too long.


Watermelon, Fennel and Feta Salad


2 C watermelon, chopped into bite sized chunks

1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely grated or shaved (about ¼ c), plus fennel fronds for garnish

2 jalapenos, finely diced

½ C feta, crumbled

Several thin slices of red onion

Juice of ½ lime

Salt to taste



Place red onion slices in a colander and pour boiling water over them to soften their bite.

Combine all ingredients. If making ahead of time, be sure to refrigerate, and try to consume within an hour.  Garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds. 

Makes 4  side servings.


Watermelon, Mint and Feta Salad


2 C watermelon, chopped into bite-sized chunks

¼ C mint leaves, finely chopped, plus sprigs for garnish

½ C feta cheese, crumbled

¼ tsp chili powder, or to taste

Juice of ½ lime

Salt if desired



Combine all ingredients and keep refrigerated until serving, preferably within an hour.  Garnish with sprigs of mint. 

Makes 4 side servings.






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