One of our all time favorite foods, too! :)
Watermelon is a summertime staple, and more prevalently we’re seeing it available in our grocery stores all throughout the year. Delightfully and deliciously, we can have our watermelon as much as we like and as often as we like. Seedless watermelon has made our lives easier, adding to the convenience of taking watermelon on the go as a snack or a refreshing post-workout fuel but also adding to the versatility we now have to play with watermelon in a huge variety of recipes.
But the question is frequently asked (and often incorrectly assumed) about where seedless watermelons came 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 fully 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 watermelons will grow in your stomach despite the old wives’ tale.
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 – simple cross-breeding. And to be clear on the subject, this is not genetic modification. Cross-breeding is two parents and their offspring.
Importantly and interestingly, seedless watermelon still need to be pollinated by their seeded parent, so oftentimes growers will plant seeded and seedless in their field. However, the seeded commercial harvest and retail sales only add up to about 8%, meaning seedless watermelon makes up for 92% of all watermelon sales. Seedless watermelon is hugely popular in the United States and it is here to stay.
Watermelon Board said on 8/14/2019 at 7:58 AM
Watermelon Board said on 7/8/2019 at 7:30 AM
That's fantastic, Ed! Glad you're enjoying watermelon this summer. :)
Watermelon Board said on 5/30/2019 at 11:19 AM
Hi Paul - Thank you for your comment. Grocery stores make decisions like seedless vs. seeded watermelon based on demand. We recommend asking your local produce manager about ordering seeded watermelon. Hope this helps!
Watermelon Board said on 2/23/2018 at 10:00 AM
We recommend using the Look, lift and turn method when picking a watermelon! First, Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents. Then, lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for it's size. Watermelon is 92% water, most of the weight is water. Last, 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. Another tip you could try while in the grocery store is to check out the fresh cut watermelon in the plastic containers for a sneak peek at what the whole watermelons will look like on the inside!