This Southern specialty may raise some eyebrows.

By Hayley Sugg
April 14, 2021
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A refreshing slice of cool watermelon is one of summer's greatest pleasures. And while for most people it's enough to enjoy the plain slice of melon right after cutting, some of us need a little something extra: salt.

Sprinkling salt on watermelon might sound like an unlikely match, but the play of sweet and salty makes it a no-brainer combination. Think of beloved dynamic duos like salted caramel, peanut butter, or any other desserts that get a hit of salt to emphasize the sweet. Plus, watermelon is already commonly paired with salty ingredients; it's frequently served with cheese and tangy balsamic vinegar or tossed into salads with feta.

But why exactly is salt such a good pair for watermelon? Read on to find out how salt helps enhance the flavor of many fruits, not just watermelon.

What Does Salt Do for Watermelon?

Watermelon, especially ones that are a little underripe or just not that tasty, has a faint hint of bitterness and tart underneath all the sweet. Salt naturally cuts through those bitter notes, making the sweetness stand out more and be the star of each bite.

Salt can do this for more than watermelon, too. Naturally bitter foods, like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, are frequently well salted to help balance the food's bite and improve the desirable flavors. Other fruits, like grapefruit and cranberries, have a fair bit of bitterness compared to sweetness. Salt is a great way to enhance these fruits' natural sweetness.

Salting watermelon also improves the fruit's texture. A little sprinkling of salt brings all the liquid to the surface of the water-rich fruit. As a result, each bite is guaranteed to be juicy and sweet. Some people even salt their watermelon slices, wait a few minutes, then dig in to allow this process a little time to get going.

watermelon slices on a marble background
Credit: Meredith

How Do You Salt Watermelon?

Now that we've convinced you that salting your watermelon is the only way to enjoy it this summer, let's get down to the "how to" part.

You only need a small sprinkling of coarse salt or flake salt to reap the benefits, so start slow and add more to your slice if you'd like. You can use table salt, but the flake salt lends itself to a better balance of flavors in each bite.

If you're looking to change things up, flavored salts are a great addition to watermelon at summertime barbecues and picnics. Flavored salt samplers are an easy way to experiment without committing to a big box of one type of flavored salt.

Any Other Salty Foods Good With Watermelon?

Southerners claim this salty secret as their intellectual property, but they're far from the first people to combine watermelon and salt. Or, for that matter, they are far from the first to recognize the benefits of salty or tangy condiments on bitter fruits.

Go with a zing of citrus by using lemon or lime salt. Play up the sweet and salty aspects by opting for honey-infused salt. Or get a little spicy, similar to the classic combo of mango and Tajín, with a sprinkle of ghost pepper salt.

Cheeses like feta and halloumi provide a nice salty contrast to watermelon, too, helping to elevate the sweetness. Further, grilling watermelon can help concentrate the sweetness along the charred lines, much like salt does.

If you're watching your sodium intake, you can get similar results with a zing of citrus from fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice. Believe it or not, cucumber is a good balance for watermelon, too. Cucumber, like watermelon, is naturally bitter, but the comparison of the unsweet cucumber to the sweet melon helps the fruit's sweetness shine.

No matter what kind of salt or seasoning you choose, you're sure to never go back to plain watermelon.

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This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com