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Watermelons are thought to have originated in southern Africa, where other variations, sometimes with bitter tasting fruit, still grow wild. The sweet fleshed varieties we know today have been cultivated since at least 2,000 B.C., and watermelon seeds were among the items found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Watermelons were certainly cultivated in China by the 10th century AD, and had migrated to European gardens around the 13th century. The first reference to watermelons being grown in the Americas is from the 1500s, when French explorers noted Native Americans cultivating the plants in the region of the Mississippi Valley. A debate remains about whether the plants were introduced to America by settlers or by African slaves.
Watermelons typically have thick grey or green (sometimes mottled or yellow) rinds over red, pink, yellow, or light green flesh. Scores of cultivars have been bred for short season maturity, resistance to disease, and to maximize sweetness. As its name suggests, the fruit is composed of about 90% water. The whole fruit is edible, including the rind. In Chinese and Eastern European cuisine, the rind is often pickled. The most nutritious portion of the fruit may be the soft, white, inner rind, although this is often discarded as it has virtually no flavour.
Watermelons are a good source of vitamins A, C, and folate, as well as the minerals potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. They are also high in beta carotene and lypocene.