Could you imagine a hot summer day without the colorful and fresh watermelon? I cannot. I will tell you a secret: in the town of Paine, Maipo Valley, you will find very special watermelons. They are so tasty and healthy and invite us to cook and try various wine pairings.
Paine is an agricultural commune, located in the Metropolitan Region, very close to Santiago, at the southern end of the Maipo Valley (Maipo Andes). In Mapudungun language, payne means celestial, surely referring to its clear skies, where at night you can see the stars hanging from the peaks of the Andes; or to the celestial of its skies during the days of summer, where the clouds do not abound, and the summer season is always long and hot.
In pre-Columbian times, Picunche people lived in these fields. Being colonized by the Spaniards, a particular culture was molded, very attached to the traditions, to the passion for agriculture and crafts. The National Festivities in this locality are celebrated with passion, with their colorful ramadas (local fiestas). It is also important to mention an annual exhibition called Expo Rural, where the visitors can enjoy the fruits of this land, especially the famous watermelons.
Paine watermelons have a large size, a very sweet flavor and higher nutritional properties than any other watermelon. In addition, its producers work to reduce the impact on the ecosystem of the plastics used during their cultivation. If you want to try them, nothing is easier than to participate in the Sandía Festival in January or simply stop for a few minutes on Ruta 5 Sur, when you leave Santiago.
Watermelon is an annual plant and a very close cucumber cousin. Its bark is smooth with varying shades of green. It has its origin in the South of Africa. There is archaeological evidence that it was already known and valued in Ancient Egypt. Today it is found in the whole world, showing different colors and shapes, like the peculiar cubic watermelon of the Zentsuji region in Japan.
We love it for its sweet and refreshing taste. Watermelon is about 90% water. The rest is sugar. But do not just think about calories. It has high nutritional values, such as vitamins A, C and B, minerals, as well as carotene and lycopene.
The most basic way to eat it is cutting some pieces or cubes, leave them for a couple of hours in the refrigerator and enjoy them as a tasty and refreshing snack or dessert. You can also prepare a juice or sangria, mixing it with a light wine. In Chile, they traditionally sprinkle it with roasted wheat flour. It’s like heaven in your mouth. A world of contrasts, where different textures and toasted, sweet and fresh flavors struggle and complement each other.
Did you know that watermelon seeds are also consumed in some cultures? Its dehydrated and toasted seeds have a similar taste to dried fruit, such as almonds or walnuts. Sometimes these seeds are ground and made into flour to prepare different recipes. The Chinese and Vietnamese use their seeds during banquets celebrating the New Year.
Cooking savory dishes with watermelon can be a challenge, but super fun at the same time. It really asks for a lot of our imagination. For example, you can cut some watermelon cubes, marinate them in a vinaigrette of balsamic oil, herbs and olive oil (leave them standing in your refrigerator) and then serve with cheese. What a fresh and rich salad! If you choose a feta cheese, I recommend the fine white blend Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection White as pairing. But if you opt for a cheese like the Greek halloumi, highlight it with the Trio Chardonnay blend, which contains a small percentage of aromatic strains that go very well and rejoices the fruit and cheese.
Attention: the watermelon can also be grilled. The grill provides a delicious smoky touch. If you have no idea what to do for dinner, or just want to surprise your guests, prepare a salmon on the grill and, when it is almost ready, add pieces of watermelon with a mixture of honey, hot mustard and oil. Serve it with Casillero del Diablo Rosé. You will eat like a king.
With the watermelon we can also create oriental fusion flavors. A simple dish that my friends love is a tuna carpaccio, with a salad of small pieces of watermelon, marinated ginger, a pinch of fresh coriander leaves, lemon juice and a couple of drops of sesame oil. Naturally, it is wonderful with a very aromatic wine. I choose Casillero del Diablo Viognier.
If after a family party you have roast lamb or duck breast leftovers, prepare a cold salad the next day. Place the pieces of meat on green leaves and decorate the dish with slices of watermelon and orange, purple onion feathers and, just before serving, pour a simple vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil. As it is a cold and not hot salad, serve it with the fresh Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir.
I hope that I have inspired you to cook with watermelon, from the aperitif to the dessert, enjoying this wonderful product of Paine with our wines.