Gardening Recipes

Can You Eat Watermelon Seeds?

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When I was a kid, I remember my grandmother telling me that if I ate watermelon seeds, they’d sprout in my stomach and grow out of my ears. Although this sounded a bit terrifying, my curiosity got the better of me: I ate watermelon seeds every time I got the chance.
Mmm. A fresh Ali Baba watermelon from our garden. Ali Baba is an Iraqi heirloom, and perhaps our favorite watermelon due its size, texture, flavor, and nice big seeds.

Mmm. A fresh Ali Baba watermelon from our garden. Ali Baba is an Iraqi heirloom, and perhaps our favorite watermelon due its size, texture, flavor, and nice big seeds.

Despite my best efforts, I was never able to successfully grow watermelons in or on my body. However, this memory of my grandma sprouts up every time I accidentally munch on a fresh watermelon seed while eating the sweet summer fruit. (Yes, I know that watermelons are technically berries, scientifically speaking.) Maybe that was grandma’s goal all along: plant a seed in my brain that sparked a fond memory of her each time I ate watermelon.

Sailing to New Culinary Shores: The Edible Watermelon Seed

Navajo Red Seeded watermelon seeds.

Navajo Red Seeded watermelon seeds.

The Tyrant and I are food explorers: we love discovering new heirloom seed varieties to grow in our garden. We also enjoy exploring cuisines from other cultures.

A few years ago, we were in a Middle Eastern grocery store seeing what unusual foods we could get our hands on when we spied bags of roasted seeds that looked oddly familiar. There wasn’t a single English word on the label, but our suspicions were confirmed when we asked the shopkeeper what they were. “Roasted watermelon seeds,” he said. “Very good.

Our first reaction: “Woah. Watermelon seeds are considered a good food?

A native Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) sunning on a young Moon-And-Stars watermelon in our garden.

A native Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) sunning on a young Moon-And-Stars watermelon in our garden.

Watermelons are native to Africa, but have been spread around the world by traders and merchants for hundreds or even thousands of years. As it turns out, plenty of other cultures don’t just view the fruit as a delicacy, they also enjoy roasting and eating watermelon seeds.

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How To Eat Watermelon Seeds

Raw watermelon seeds straight out of the melon aren’t that great to eat. They’re crunchy, fibrous, and slightly bitter. This is due to the thick seed coat that’s protecting the endosperm and other goodies hidden inside—and the hidden part of the seed offers the best flavor and nutrition.

Watermelon seeds are typically roasted and eaten similarly to the way we eat sunflower seeds in America.

Here’s a simple watermelon seed recipe: wok-roasted, salted watermelon seeds:

Mmm! Fresh wok-roasted, salted watermelon seeds.

Mmm! Fresh wok-roasted, salted watermelon seeds.

  1. When eating the fruit, separate the seeds and put them in a colander. Only use the hard, mature seeds for roasting—not the undeveloped white seeds.
  2. Rinse the seeds thoroughly, removing any sticky film on the seeds and small chunks of watermelon.
  3. Dry the seeds for 10-14 days.
  4. Heat a skillet or wok with a tablespoon or so of oil (we like the flavor of raw organic coconut oil here, but it won’t be raw after you cook it), then add your watermelon seeds. Stir and roast until the outside of the seeds have started browning.
  5. While the seeds are roasting, dissolve a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water. Once the watermelon seeds are almost completely roasted, add the salt-water mixture to the pan. Stir regularly until the water has dissolved and the outside of the seeds have a thin coating of salt on them.
  6. Allow to cool before eating. Crack open the shell like you would a sunflower seed, and eat the tasty goodness on the inside. You can also eat the whole seed if you’d prefer—they taste just like roasted pumpkin seeds but they have a thick, crunchy seed coating that some people might not like.

According to many grandmothers, cooking watermelon seeds also ensures that they won’t germinate in your stomach and sprout out of your ears.

*NOTE: If you know how to safely sprout edible seeds, you can also sprout your watermelon seeds, remove the seed coating, and then eat them raw or roasted. This method may even provide more nutritional benefits.  

Watermelon Seeds’ Nutritional Value

Want another good reason to eat watermelon seeds? Like other seeds and nuts, watermelon seeds are REALLY good for you. They’re high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and have lots of good fats. Also, watermelon seeds have an exceptionally high protein content. How high?

That’s right, watermelon seeds pack more protein per ounce than both sunflower seeds and almonds!

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Organic, Heirloom Watermelons

The best tasting watermelons we’ve ever eaten are the ones we’ve grown ourselves. As food adventurers, we love the wide range of colors, sizes, shapes, and flavors that come from heirloom seeds (watermelons included).

A few interesting heirloom watermelon varieties we grew this summer: (left) Blacktail Mountain - an early variety that grows well in northern climates; (bottom) the exceptionally drought-tolerant Navajo Red-Seeded; (top right) Ali Baba from Iraq - one of the sweetest melons we've ever tasted.

A few interesting heirloom watermelon varieties we grew this summer: (left) Blacktail Mountain – an early variety that grows well in northern climates; (bottom) the exceptionally drought-tolerant Navajo Red-Seeded; (top right) Ali Baba from Iraq – one of the sweetest melons we’ve ever tasted.

We grow our watermelons using organic and permaculture methods. Doing so ensures they’re growing in living soil that’s teeming with microbial life; those microbes team up with the roots of the plants to provide disease and pathogen protection plus optimal water and nutrient uptake. The result: the most flavorful, nutrient-dense watermelons possible.

The seeds we don’t save to grow in future years become a healthy and delicious snack. Oh, and you can also pickle or candy the watermelon rinds so that no part of the plant goes into your compost bin. We’ll try to get a watermelon rind recipe up soon.

Until then, enjoy your edible watermelon seeds!

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  • https://www.growjourney.com Aaron von Frank

    Below is an interesting comment that was shared with us via email by Alan Morse. Alan gave us permission to share:

    “Had to pass this on: Have a daughter and multiple friends from China. Of course, watermelon seeds are often served as a “dessert” course after meals in China. One friend recalled fond memories of going out to farms with her family during watermelon harvesting season. The farmers would let anyone eat his/her fill of melon at no charge…on one condition. They had to leave all the seeds behind. The seeds were the cash crop, and the families feasting on watermelon helped separate the seeds. (No seed spitting contests there!)

    One more comment: Don’t be tempted to look on this as a “Chinese” cultural practice. It’s a huge geographically and culturally diverse country of 1.3 billion people, and this was a practice among only one small piece of that vast multitude of people.”