For years people have debated whether watermelon is a fruit or a vegetable – we consider it both – here’s why . . .
Watermelon is a Fruit
Watermelon is the fruit of a plant originally from a vine of southern Africa. The watermelon fruit, loosely considered a type of melon (although not in the genus Cucumis), has a smooth exterior rind and a juicy, sweet, usually red interior flesh. The species descriptor Citrullus vulgaris is sometimes, synonymously, used to refer to this plant (vulgaris meaning "common" — Shosteck, 1974).
Like the pepper, tomato, and pumpkin, watermelon is botanically a fruit. According to Webster’s dictionary and Wikipedia, a fruit is the ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents, and a watermelon is a large oblong roundish fruit (2004, 2006). Consumers use watermelon primarily as a fruit because of its sweet flavor and refreshing qualities.
Watermelon is Also a Vegetable
According to Webster’s dictionary a vegetable is anything made or obtained from plants (2004). Watermelon is a member of the cucurbitaceae plant family of gourds (classified as Citrullus Lantus), related to the cucumber, squash, and pumpkin (Maynard, 2001). It is planted from seeds or seedlings, harvested, and then cleared from the field like other vegetables. Since watermelon is grown as a vegetable crop using vegetable production systems, watermelon is considered a vegetable (Wolford, 2004).
How Watermelon is used as a Fruit or a Vegetable
Watermelon is popularly used as a fruit, to be a sweet enhancer or fun accompaniment to our everyday meals. The watermelon is often cut into bite-sized squares or balled, or very often simply sliced and enjoyed. It’s also used in the types of recipes that are created using fruit.
However, the whole watermelon is edible, even the rind. In places like China, the watermelon is stir-fried, stewed and often pickled. In this case, the watermelon is being used as a vegetable. Pickled watermelon rind is also widespread in Russia. (Wikipedia 2006)
The scientific name of watermelon is Citrullus lanatus. It is a member of the cucurbitaceae family.
Life; Embryophyta (plants); Angiospermae (flowering plants); Order: Cucurbitales (pumpkin and melon family); Family: Cucurbitaceae.
There are about 120 genera and 735 species of Cucurbitaceae worldwide, with 18 genera and 76 species native to southern Africa. Some well known vegetables fall in this family such as watermelon, hubbard squash, butternut, pumpkin, sweet melons and cucumber.
All a Matter of Perspective
Depending on how you want to classify it, a watermelon can be considered a fruit or a vegetable. No matter which way you slice it, watermelon is fun to eat and very good for you!
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Is Watermelon a Fruit or Vegetable?
Maynard, D.N., Watermelons Characteristics, Production, and Marketing. ASHS Press. Alexandria, VA. 2001
Merriam-Webster’s English Dictionary Online http://www.m-w.com/ 2004
Shosteck, Robert (1974). Flowers and Plants: An International Lexicon with Biographical Notes. Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.: New York.
Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia http://www.wikipedia.com /2006