Wilmington has a rich food culture that goes far beyond your expected coastal fare. There is a community of people focused on eating and making real food, with an emphasis on whole, local, and responsible eating.
Organizations like Feast Down East and Down East Connect help local farmers and community members connect to bring fresh seasonal food into kitchen’s without a middleman. The local co-op Tidal Creek just finished a month long challenge motivating and helping people to eat a month of local food.
And one woman, Ryanna Battiste, is helping people change their relationship with food through a small business called GRUB.
One of the things that GRUB is doing that I was immediately intrigued by was promoting a fermented probiotic drink called water kefir, something she describes as an “affordable and bio-available way to deliver healthy bacteria” that produces a “fizzy and delicious fermented soda.” Water kefir, like kombuch or yogurt, introduces probiotics into your system that can help with gut health and over all body health.
After attending a water kefir demo, I brought home a kit and immediately started brewing. Since we started brewing we’ve made everything from lemon ginger to mango to our new favorite, watermelon.
The brew is light and fizzy, like a soda, and the watermelon kefir is nothing short of incredible. It’s easy to see why so many people in this community are whipping up batches of their own.
Since the first watermelons were harvested this season, it has made up around 80 percent of my diet. While a simple slice of watermelon is delicious, there are plenty other ways to prepare the fruit. Smoothies? Absolutely. Watermelon, mint, and feta salad? Of course. Watermelon and lime jam? Why not!
What are your favorite ways to use this fruit?
makes 1 quart
1/4 cup sugar, cane or brown
3/4 quart filtered water
2 dried figs
1/4 cup kefir culture
1 cup pureed watermelon
In a quart jar combine water, sugar, figs, and the culture. Mix to combine, cap, and store in a dark cabinet for 24-48 hours.
Strain out the grains and discard the figs. Combine the liquid (the kefir after first ferment) and the pureed watermelon in a second jar.
Let ferment an additional 24-48 hours. Chill and serve.
Watermelon Lime Jam
makes 1 1/2 pints
2 cups pureed watermelon
4 tbsp instant pectin
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 4 limes
Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to half pint jars and let sit 30 minutes. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Watermelon Feta Mint Salad
1/2 watermelon, cut into chunks
1 handful fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Mince your mint and combine with watermelon and feta. Chill 20 minutes and serve cold.
One of the last old-school fish houses in Onslow County stands sentry on the White Oak River. Clyde Phillips Seafood Market has served up seafood and stories since 1954 — an icon of the coast, persevering in pink.