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Top 5 facts to share about … watermelons

Watermelons might be red or pink, come with or without pips, or be served in slices or wedges. You can hand them out on a plate, brush sand off them at the beach or freeze chunks on lolly sticks for the kids.

But you never want to drop a whole one on your toes, for obvious reasons.

Watermelons scream summer. Only mangoes give watermelons a run for their money in the ‘juice all over your face and up your arm’ stakes.

As Australia’s summer season started just yesterday, it seems a good time to write about this juicy, juicy fruit.

The Annals of Botany has also just published a paper on how artists have depicted watermelons, called Medieval iconography of watermelons in Mediterranean Europe.

So, this week, I’m adding a bit of art history into the geeky mix.

To save you reading the paper yourself, here are my top 5 facts about watermelons that I learned:

  1. Watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) are thought to have been first domesticated in southern and central Africa before finding their way to the Mediterranean and the rest of the world
  2. Most of us know watermelons as a sweet, refreshing fruit but there are also the white-fleshed, blander, citron watermelons, which are grown today in southern Africa for cooking and to feed animals. In fact, some researchers believe that these citron watermelons were the ancestors to today’s sweet watermelons
  3. Watermelons can grow to a colossal 100kg but most commercial fruit ranges from 3 to 13kg
  4. Watermelons first appeared in medieval manuscripts from around the year 1300, examples of which sit in the British Library and in collections throughout Europe and the US. Both sweet and citron watermelons are depicted
  5. Watermelons are also depicted at the Temple of Meir in Egypt’s Old Kingdom (3100-2180 BC), and in mosaics from 4th century Carthage and 5th Century Greece

That’s enough art history for now. How about a light-hearted segue into ethnobotany?

If you’re looking for an adults-only party treat this festive season, there’s always vodka watermelon.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. You know you want to try some. Here are the instructions for how to make it yourself.

This would be a good time to talk about the cellular structure of watermelons and how it allows them to hold so much fluid. But that’s enough geekiness for one week.

Happy watermelon.

If you liked this, you might like:
When strawberries scream ‘eat me’
Top 5 facts to share about … peaches
Top 10 facts to share about … tulips

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