It’s summer – what picnic is complete without a juicy, delicious watermelon? While you dive into that giant piece of luscious melon, how many of these interesting facts provided by the National Watermelon Promotion Board did you know?
• The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
• Over 1,200 varieties of watermelons are grown worldwide in 96 countries.
• In some Mediterranean countries, the taste of watermelon is paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.
• 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 1796 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
• In 1990, Bill Carson of Arrington, TN grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still on the record books (1998 ed. Guinness Book of World Records).
• Watermelon has no fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C and contains fiber and potassium.
• There is new research to suggest that the lycopene in watermelon may actually protect us from sunburn and sun damage – who knew?
Some quick history from the Board:
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.”
The United States currently ranks fourth in worldwide production of watermelon. Forty-four states grow watermelons with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently leading the country in production.
How to choose the best watermelon – from the Board:
They say 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 its 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.
Check out much, much more information about everyone’s favorite summer fruit at www.watermelon.org. The site has tons of recipes, activities for kids, nutrition information – they even have a blog, which they say is the ONLY blog in the entire world devoted entirely to watermelon!
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