Horchata de pipas de melón (melon seeds horchata)

Last week we got a big melon in our fruit and veg box delivery, and when I was removing the seeds I remembered that I read that early horchata recipes used melon seeds, and I wondered: what would an horchata made of melon seeds taste like?

Why not try it? After all, these seeds were going to go to waste, and I have a bit of time in my hands… so…

Ingredients

Given that it’s not normally possible to buy melon seeds on their own, you’ll need to add water proportionally, depending on how many seeds you get from your melon.

  • 44 g melon seeds
  • 176 g water
  • Sugar to taste

You’ll also need a blender, plus a cheese cloth or similar to strain the paste.

Preparation

I’m following roughly the same method as the one for making tiger nut horchata.

First, remove all the seeds from the melon. I’m finding it quite practical to peel and dice an entire melon at once, then store the cubes on a properly sealed container in the fridge, and that way it’s ready to eat whenever you need it.

Seeds removed from the melon
Seeds removed from the melon

Remove all the bits which are not seeds (I’m not sure how to call them, gunk?), and also any seed that looks a bit sad.

Place them in a sieve and wash them under running water, so if there’s any missing piece of “gunk” it goes away.

Melon seeds on a sieve
Melon seeds on a sieve

Place the seeds in a container with water (it doesn’t matter how much) so they soak overnight. Cover with a cloth or something so insects don’t get access to them.

The next day… here are our seeds! Which don’t look fundamentally more plump than the day before, but hey.

Melon seeds after soaking overnight
Melon seeds after soaking overnight

Drain the seeds, and weigh them—I got 44g—, and place them on your blender jar:

Melon seeds on the blender jar
Melon seeds on the blender jar

Calculate the water you’ll need; for the horchata recipe you’d use 125 g of tiger nuts for 500 g of water.

So if you have 44 g of melon seeds, you’d need 44 * 500 / 125 = 176 g of water.

I’m using some “old fashioned” maths here:

125 g nuts/seeds ➡️ 500 g water
44 g nuts/seeds ➡️ x g water

I put my 176 g of water on a jug, then added a bit of it to the blender jar so blending becomes a bit easier with the liquid.

Blend until it becomes a paste, then add more water from the jug to make sure it is all dissolved.

Place a cheese cloth on top of a jug, tighten or secure it so it doesn’t fall down under the weight of the paste, then place the paste on it and wait until the liquid filters down. Then you can squeeze even more using your hands!

Finally you can add the rest of water from the jug. And stir!

It doesn’t get a lot of yield – not even 200g!

Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Try for taste and adjust for sugar as you like.

Melon seeds horchata
Melon seeds horchata
Melon seeds horchata-top view
Melon seeds horchata-top view

Then place it in the fridge to cool down; blending makes the paste get very hot! It’s not fun to have hot horchata when the weather is hot as well.

Interestingly this horchata doesn’t have as much sediment as tiger nut horchata does.

And how does it taste like? It tastes vaguely like melon; it has some hints of nuttiness. In a way it’s like a slightly tangier version of sunflower seeds milk.

Where did you get this idea!?

Last year I stumbled upon an article telling about the first known written recipe for horchata, which was going to be auctioned for 38,000€.

This might not sound very important for most people, but for Valencians, horchata is very important. So learning what the earliest known horchata looked like is very interesting to me!

It’s not even a “proper” recipe; it’s more more like a list of the ingredients that were consumed in a given house on a given day. A food diary entry, if you might. My attempt at transcribing and translating:

Agua elada de orchata
Lunes a 9 Setembre 1748, día p??? de toros plaza de Santo Domingo. Se eló agua: 12 vasos para la familia con 6oz vizcochos cantel y entró y se compuso de
– 3 oz almendras peladas … 9 dm
– 2 oz pepitas melón todo el año … 2 dm
– oz piñones; q lo echaron a perder, y en otra ocasión se pondrán 1/4 oz piñones y 3 oz de almendras
– 10 oz azúcar blanco … 38 dm
6 tt de nieve = salieron 12 vasos à colmo … 24 dm !?
– col?ó – 72 dm y salió a 6 dm el vaso

Meneola el Dr Onig Porta y la eló
Otra en el año 1745 6 agosto en el (ilegible)
Iced horchata
Monday, 9th September 1748, day ??? something something bulls, Santo Domingo Square

We made iced water: 12 cups for the family with 6 oz sponges and also composed of:
– 3 oz peeled almonds … 9 dm
– 2 oz all-year-long melon seeds … 2 dm
– oz pine nuts; which ruined it, and in other occasion add 1/4 oz pine nuts and 3 oz almonds
– 10 oz white sugar … 38 dm
– 6 tt snow = the yield is 12 generous cups … 24 dm !?
??? – 72 dm and it’s 6 dm per cup

Dr Onig Porta stirred and iced it
Another one on the 6th of August of 1745 in the (unreadable)
Be warned that I’ve transcribed the Spanish version “as is”, and I haven’t updated it to follow modern grammar rules. So it uses “orchata” instead of “horchata”, “elada” instead of “helada”, etc.

The first thing that caught my eye was the units: they use ounces! This was clearly written before the metric system was devised 🙂

Secondly and even more interesting is that whoever noted this also noted the price of the ingredients. With this, you can have an idea of how expensive things were in relation to each other, sugar being the most expensive at 3.8 dm per oz… but I do not know what the “dm” unit means and it annoys me to not know things!

So I went down a little rabbit hole of research 😏

If this was written in 1748 that was when the currency was escudos, which was the Spanish currency between 1535 and 1833. But “escudo” doesn’t seem to abbreviate to “dm” even by old Spanish standards.

It might have been a Valencian coin, because it seems that each region in Spain were able to mint their own coins back then. The closest I have found is a coin called “dieciocheno”, which was minted in Valencia in the XVI and XVII centuries. It literally translates as “18th” because it was equivalent to “18 dineros” i.e. “18 units of money”.

And of course I might be wrong, I mean, look at all these old Spanish coins! There are so many!

Modern Valencian horchata with denomination of origin uses tiger nuts as its main component, rather than melon seeds or almonds; the auction article also mentions that at the time, 200 grams of almonds were as expensive as 13 kilos of tiger nuts. Thus using tiger nuts made horchata available to everyone, not just rich people. Yay tiger nuts!

I also found that this melon seeds horchata is popular in countries such as Mexico, although they call it something like “agua fresca de melón”. ¡Vivan las aguas frescas también!

I hope this inspired you to experiment a bit too 🥛

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