Last Chance Foods: Stay Cool, Drink Real Food

It’s the high season for cool, slushy drinks. Nina Planck, author of several Real Food cookbooks, says her fermented watermelon basil cooler illustrates one of her key principles: when she processes food, she does it in ways that enhance nutrition, flavor, and shelf life. 

Nina Planck / photo by  Katherine Wolkoff

Nina's recipe for fermented watermelon basil cooler (Makes two quarts)


  • 8–10 lb watermelon
  • 8–10 Meyer lemons
  • small bunch of Genovese basil
  • 1/4 c organic whole cane sugar
  • 1/4 c fresh whey
  • 1 T unrefined sea salt
  • 3 c water
  1. Make 3 cups of watermelon juice in a blender or food processor. Don’t strain the pulp.
  2. Squeeze 1 cup of lemon juice.
  3. Take 1/2 cup of basil leaves and gently bruise them using a mortar and pestle to release the oil.
  4. Put all the ingredients in a 2-quart glass jar, cover with water, and close the lid tightly.
  5. Stir and leave out at room temperature for 3 days. Allow a little carbonation to escape when necessary and replace the cap firmly. Chill and serve. Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.