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History of Watermelon

Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.

From there, watermelons spread throughout countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships. By the 10th century, watermelon found its way to China, which is now the world's number one producer of watermelons.

The 13th century found watermelon spread through the rest of Europe via the Moors.

Southern food historian, John Egerton, believes watermelon made its way to the United States with African slaves as he states in his book, "Southern Food."
 
Types and Varieties of Watermelon

About 200-300 varieties are grown in the U.S. and Mexico, although there are about 50 varieties that are very popular. You can do an online search or contact a seed company to find out more about common and historic watermelon varieties. The modern watermelon lover sees his or her watermelon options as these five types: Seeded, Seedless, Mini, Yellow and Orange.
 
Fun Facts

  • The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
  • Watermelon is 92% water.
  • Watermelon's official name is Citrullus Lanatus of the botanical family Curcurbitaceae. It is cousins to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
  • By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.
  • Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
  • The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
  • Updated! According to Guinness World Records, the world's heaviest watermelon was grown by Lloyd Bright of Arkadelphia, Arkansas in 2005, weighing in at 268.8 lbs (121.93 kg). Lloyd grew and weighed in for the Annual Hope, Arkansas Big Watermelon Contest on September 3, 2005.
  • The United States currently ranks 5th in worldwide production of watermelon. Forty-four states grow watermelons with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently leading the country in production.

  • Email us at info@watermelon.org for more fun facts!
 
Where do Seedless Watermelons Come From ?

Seedless watermelons were invented over 50 years ago, and they have few or no seeds. When we say seeds, we are talking about mature seeds, the black ones. Oftentimes, the white seed coats where a seed did not mature are assumed to be seeds. But this isn’t the case! They are perfectly safe to swallow while eating, and don’t worry - no seeds will grow in your stomach.

So, how are seedless watermelons grown? Chromosomes are the building blocks that give characteristics, or traits, to living things including plants and watermelons. Watermelon breeders discovered that crossing a diploid plant (bearing the standard two sets of chromosomes) with a tetraploid plant (having four sets of chromosomes) results in a fruit that produces a triploid seed. (Yes, it has three sets of chromosomes). This triploid seed is the seed that produces seedless watermelons!

 In other words, a seedless watermelon is a sterile hybrid which is created by crossing male pollen for a watermelon, containing 22 chromosomes per cell, with a female watermelon flower with 44 chromosomes per cell. When this seeded fruit matures, the small, white seed coats inside contain 33 chromosomes, rendering it sterile and incapable of producing seeds. This is similar to the mule, produced by crossing a horse with a donkey. This process does not involve genetic modification.
 
Pick a Good Watermelon

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3.

1. Look the watermelon over.
You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents.

2. Lift it up.
The watermelon should be heavy for it's size. Watermelon is 92% water, most of the weight is water.

3. Turn it over.
The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
 
 
© National Watermelon Promotion Board