Has anyone ever told you that if you eat a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your stomach? A show of hands, please. One, two, three, four…okay, pretty much everyone.
Here’s the thing: Now that we’re adults, we all know that tall tale is absurd — your stomach has no nutrient-rich soil, no sunlight and, oh yes, it’s filled with corrosive acid — but when you’re an impressionable six-year-old hanging out at your family reunion, it’s totally believable.
So where did this strange and somewhat twisted myth come from, and why do parents and not-that-funny uncles continue to pass it along today?
I scoured the internet in search of the origins of the myth, and I came up somewhat empty. I found plenty of mentions of the myth and a few people asking about its origins, but no answers. I did, however, find plenty of websites — like this one — that offered some tasty ways to prepare watermelon seeds and discussed the many nutritional benefits of consuming them.
And so, if we can’t figure out WHERE the myth came from, maybe we can at least think about WHY our parents and cruel older brothers told us this untruth in the first place.
Often, our parents tell us myths that they themselves might believe. Like “cracking your knuckles causes arthritis” or “sitting too close to the TV will hurt your eyes.” Both are widely believed by kids and adults, but both are false.
Other times, our parents will tell us a myth that they know to be untrue, but is designed to protect us from some vague harm. Like “don’t swallow your gum, because it will stay in your stomach forever.” That patently false, but maybe our parents thought it at least wasn’t good for us to swallow gum, so they figured a little fib wouldn’t hurt.
I’m guessing the watermelon seeds myth falls partially in the swallowing gum category. Our parents knew that there was no real harm in swallowing seeds, but they cooked up a crazy story about a little boy who woke up one day with a giant, distended belly to scare the daylights out of us as we gobbled down a juicy wedge on a hot, summer day.
But there’s a third reason for the telling of myths that might also be a factor here. That is, that some myths are just plain fun to tell because of the reaction of the person on the receiving end. We were tormented by the myth when we were kids, and now we’ve earned the right to pass along that cruel joke as adults.
I, for one, have chosen NOT to perpetuate the myth with my six-year-old daughter. She loves watermelon, and I wouldn’t want to do anything to cause her to fall out of love with it. Have I told her that if she doesn’t clean behind her ears that potatoes will start growing there? Sure, but only because cleanliness is important.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some watermelon seeds to roast. Toss ‘em with a little olive oil and sea salt, and you’ve got yourself a tasty snack!