Watermelon meets the fruits and flavors of the Southwest in this gazpacho – a refreshing summer soup. This melding of summer flavors started centuries ago when plants of the Old World and the New World melded in the Columbian Exchange. And thanks to Father Kino, the Southwest region was a highly active part of the great Columbian Exchange. Fruit like watermelon are not native to the region – but once introduced became highly popular.
The Columbian Exchange
We all know that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” And we know he was looking for spices. On the first trip he filled his ships with seeds and cuttings of plants he found and sailed home (he came back a few times too). The Exchange was the start of the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Americas, West Africa, and the Old World, mostly in the 15th and 16th centuries, but continuing into Father Kino’s time. More about Father Kino at the end of this article.
This new contact among the global population circulated a wide variety of crops and livestock, which ultimately supported large increases in population in both hemispheres. Sadly, diseases initially caused precipitous declines in the numbers of indigenous peoples of the Americas. Traders returned to Europe with maize, potatoes, and tomatoes, which became very important crops in Europe.
Foods Brought to the Southwest
It is estimated that over 100 species of food plants were brought into the Southwest during the Exchange. Roughly 60 species were transferred from this region to Europe and Africa. Plants were also taken to the Orient, but that is a tale for another day.
Watermelon in the Southwest
Watermelon was originally from Africa, but was a highly popular introduction to the Southwest. Used to growing squash as one of the “Three Sisters”, it was easy for them to add the squashlike plants of watermelon to their fields. [More about the Three Sisters on Gardening With Soule – here]
Different tribes selected for the watermelons plants that would grow best in their corner of the region. They also selected for characteristics they appreciated – like yellow fruit. For more about Southwest cultivars of watermelon, see Native Seeds/SEARCH (.org).
Gazpacho is a cold soup made of raw, blended vegetables. It is considered a classic of Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. There are many theories as to the origin of gazpacho, including one that says it is a soup of bread, olive oil, water, vinegar and garlic that arrived in Spain and Portugal with the Romans. During the 19th century, red gazpacho was created when tomatoes were added to the ingredients. This last version spread internationally, and remains the most commonly known, but let’s mix it up a little!
1 small watermelon seeded and diced, about 6 cups 4 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered 1 bell pepper, cut to same size as tomatoes 1 /4 cup Anaheim or poblano peppers, seeded and finely diced 1 red onion, finely diced 1 lime for: 1/2 teaspoon lime zest and 2 tablespoons lime juice 2 tablespoons sweet basil finely chopped 1/4 cup pomegranate or red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons honey pinch of salt Serves 6
Mix together just 4 cups of the watermelon, the tomatoes, and the onion.
Add lime zest and juice, chili pepper, and chopped basil.
Press remaining 2 cups of watermelon through a food mill or puree in a food processor. Pour the result through a fine strainer to make the watermelon juice. Add honey to the juice and stir well to dissolve. Add the juice to the vegetables. Feed the solids to the cook – or the chickens.
Season this vegetable blend to taste with the vinegar and salt. The salt is needed to bring out the flavors in the tomato. The honey make the watermelon flavor pop. You’re looking for a good fruity, vegetal balance.
A Word from the Inventor
Chef Jonathan Bardzik explains “Gazpacho should have enough liquid to be a soup and not just feel like watery salsa. To punch up the watermelon flavor in this soup I juice some watermelon and use that for the extra liquid. Since watermelons are 92 percent water there will not be very many solids left behind.”
He adds, “If you do not have a food mill, you can puree the watermelon in a blender or food processor and strain the juice through a fine mesh sieve.”
Thank You AAS
This recipe is provided as an education/inspirational service of All-America Selections (AAS). We thank them for sharing! We invite you to view the video of chef Jonathan Bardzik creating this gazpacho for AAS – here.
Father Kino’s Herbs – Learn more about this Southwest Icon
The last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today The review says:
“Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”
A steal at only $20! This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute. We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit!
And Here’s Our Cookbook!
May we suggest our dandy little cookbook? Using Honey in New and Savory Ways offers 36 pages of tips for using honey in your cooking, as well as in all manner of dishes. A steal at only $6!
We hope you will help support some local Southwest folks!
From the review:
“Honey is for more than desserts and this book can help! Using honey in cooking savory dishes helps engage all your taste buds and adds a layer of added flavor to everyday dishes – plus holiday fare.”
Beekeeper? We offer volume discounts – because if you sell honey in local markets you might want to offer some of these books as well.
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The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.