Watermelon

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Watermelon
Taiwan 2009 Tainan City Organic Farm Watermelon FRD 7962.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Rosids
Order:Cucurbitales
Family:Cucurbitaceae
Genus:Citrullus
Species:C. lanatus
Variety:lanatus
Trinomial name
Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus
(Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai
2005watermelon.PNG
Watermelon output in 2005
 
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For other uses, see Watermelon (disambiguation).
Watermelon
Taiwan 2009 Tainan City Organic Farm Watermelon FRD 7962.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Rosids
Order:Cucurbitales
Family:Cucurbitaceae
Genus:Citrullus
Species:C. lanatus
Variety:lanatus
Trinomial name
Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus
(Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai
2005watermelon.PNG
Watermelon output in 2005

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus, family Cucurbitaceae) is a vine-like (scrambler and trailer) flowering plant originally from southern Africa. It is a large, sprawling annual plant with coarse, hairy pinnately-lobed leaves and white to yellow flowers. It is grown for its edible fruit, also known as a watermelon, which is a special kind of berry referred to by botanists as a pepo. The fruit has a smooth hard rind, usually green with dark green stripes or yellow spots, and a juicy, sweet interior flesh, usually deep red to pink, but sometimes orange, yellow, or white, with many seeds.

The plant has been cultivated in Egypt since at least the 2nd millenium BC and by the 10th century AD had reached India and China. It later spread into southern Europe and on into the New World. Much research effort has beep put into breeding disease-resistant varieties and into developing a seedless strain. Nowadays a large number of cultivars are available, many of them producing mature fruit within 100 days of planting the crop. The fruit is rich in vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways.

History

Watermelon Juice

Watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, where it is found growing wild. It reaches maximum genetic diversity there, with sweet, bland and bitter forms. In the 19th century, Alphonse de Candolle[1] considered the watermelon to be indigenous to tropical Africa.[2] Though Citrullus colocynthis is often considered to be a wild ancestor of watermelon and is now found native in north and west Africa, it has been suggested on the basis of chloroplast DNA investigations that the cultivated and wild watermelon diverged independently from a common ancestor, possibly C. ecirrhosus from Namibia.[3]

Evidence of its cultivation in the Nile Valley was found from the second millennium BC. Watermelon seeds have been found at Twelfth Dynasty sites and in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.[4] Watermelon is also mentioned in the Bible as a food eaten by the ancient Israelites while they were in bondage in Egypt.[5]

In the 7th century, watermelons were being cultivated in India and by the 10th century had reached China, which is today the world's single largest watermelon producer. Moorish invaders introduced the fruit into Europe and there is evidence of it being cultivated in Córdoba in 961 and also in Seville in 1158. It spread northwards through southern Europe, perhaps limited in its advance by summer temperatures being insufficient for good yields. The fruit had began appearing in European herbals by 1600 and was widely planted in Europe in the 17th century as a minor garden crop.[6]

European colonists and slaves from Africa introduced the watermelon into the New World. Spanish settlers were growing it in Florida in 1576, and it was being grown in Massachusetts by 1629, and by 1650 was being cultivated in Peru, Brazil and Panama as well as in many British and Dutch colonies. At much the same date, Native Americans were cultivating the crop in the Mississippi valley and Florida and watermelons were later quickly accepted in Hawaii and other Pacific islands when they were introduced there by Captain James Cook and other explorers.[6]

Description

The watermelon is an annual plant with long, weak, trailing or climbing stems which are five-angled and up to 3 m (10 ft) long. Young growth is densely woolly with yellowish-brown hairs which disappear as the plant ages. The leaves are stemmed and are alternate, large and pinnately-lobed, stiff and rough when old. The plant has branching tendrils. The flowers grow singly in the leaf axils and the corolla is white or yellow inside and greenish-yellow on the underside. The flowers are unisexual, with male and female flowers occurring on the same plant (monoecious). The male flowers predominate at the beginning of the season and the female flowers, which develop later, have inferior ovaries. The styles are united into a single column and the large fruit is a kind of modified berry called a pepo. This has a thick rind (exocarp) and fleshy center (mesocarp and endocarp).[7] Wild plants have fruits up to 20 cm (8 in) in diameter while cultivated varieties may exceed 60 cm (24 in). The rind of this fruit is mid- to dark green and usually mottled or striped, and the flesh contains numerous pips and is red, orange, pink, yellow, green or white.[6][8]

Variety improvement

Charles Fredric Andrus, a horticulturist at the USDA Vegetable Breeding Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, set out to produce a disease-resistant and wilt-resistant watermelon. The result, in 1954, was "that gray melon from Charleston". Its oblong shape and hard rind made it easy to stack and ship. Its adaptability meant it could be grown over a wide geographical area. It produced high yields and was resistant to the most serious watermelon diseases: anthracnose and fusarium wilt.[9] Others were also working on disease-resistant varieties; J. M. Crall at the University of Florida produced "Jubilee" in 1963 and C. V. Hall of Kansas State University produced "Crimson sweet" the following year. These are no longer grown to any great extent but their lineage has been further developed into hybrid varieties with higher yields, better flesh quality and attractive appearance.[6] Another objective of plant breeders has been the elimination of the seeds which occur scattered throughout the flesh. This has been achieved through the use of triploid varieties but these are sterile, and the cost of producing the seed, through crossing a tetraploid parent with a normal diploid parent, is high.[6]

Today, farmers in approximately 44 states in the United States grow watermelon commercially. Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are the United States' largest watermelon producers. This now-common fruit is often large enough that groceries often sell half or quarter melons. Some smaller, spherical varieties of watermelon, both red- and yellow-fleshed, are sometimes called "icebox melons". [10] The largest fruit recorded from the United States was grown in Tennessee in 1990 and weighed 119 kg (262 lb).[6]

Culture

Top five watermelon producers (2012, in tonnes)
 China70,000,000
 Turkey4,044,184
 Iran3,800,000
 Brazil2,079,547
 Egypt1,874,710
 World total95,211,432
Source: UN FAOSTAT [11]

Watermelons are tropical or subtropical plants and need temperatures higher than about 25 °C (77 °F) to thrive. On a garden scale, seeds are usually sown in pots under cover and transplanted into well-drained sandy loam with a pH of between 5.5 and 7 and medium nitrogen levels. The plants need plenty of room and should be kept weed free, nipping out the growing tips when the stems are two metres (yards) long. Aphids, fruit flies and root-knot nematodes attack this crop and if humidity levels are high, the plants are prone to plant diseases such as powdery mildew and mosaic virus.[12]

Seedless watermelon

For commercial plantings, one beehive per acre (4,000 m2 per hive) is the minimum recommendation by the US Department of Agriculture for pollination of conventional, seeded varieties. Because seedless hybrids have sterile pollen, pollinizer rows of varieties with viable pollen must also be planted. Since the supply of viable pollen is reduced and pollination is much more critical in producing the seedless variety, the recommended number of hives per acre, or pollinator density, increases to three hives per acre (1,300 m2 per hive). Watermelons have a longer growing period than other melons and can often take 85 days or more from transplanting for the fruit to mature.[13]

In Japan and other parts of the Far East, varieties are often grown that are susceptible to fusarium wilt, and these may be grafted onto disease-resistant rootstocks.[6] Farmers of the Zentsuji region of Japan found a way to grow cubic watermelons, by growing the fruits in glass boxes and letting them naturally assume the shape of the receptacle.[14] The cubic shape was originally designed to make the melons easier to stack and store, but the cubic watermelons are often more than double the price of normal ones, and much of their appeal to consumers is in their novelty. Pyramid-shaped watermelons have also been developed and any polyhedral shape may potentially also be used. These shaped watermelon are often harvested before optimal ripeness. Because they are bitter instead of sweet, the shaped fruits are considered ornamental instead of food.[15]

Nutrition

Watermelon, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy127 kJ (30 kcal)
7.55 g
Sugars6.2 g
Dietary fiber0.4 g
0.15 g
0.61 g
Vitamins
Vitamin A equiv.
(4%)
28 μg
(3%)
303 μg
Thiamine (B1)
(3%)
0.033 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
(2%)
0.021 mg
Niacin (B3)
(1%)
0.178 mg
(4%)
0.221 mg
Vitamin B6
(3%)
0.045 mg
Choline
(1%)
4.1 mg
Vitamin C
(10%)
8.1 mg
Trace metals
Calcium
(1%)
7 mg
Iron
(2%)
0.24 mg
Magnesium
(3%)
10 mg
Manganese
(2%)
0.038 mg
Phosphorus
(2%)
11 mg
Potassium
(2%)
112 mg
Sodium
(0%)
1 mg
Zinc
(1%)
0.1 mg
Other constituents
Water91.45 g
Lycopene4532 µg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 91% water by weight. As with many other fruits, it is a good source of vitamin C. It is also high in vitamin A and potassium while being low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.[16]

Watermelon rinds are also edible, but most people avoid eating them due to their unappealing flavor. They are used for making pickles,[17] and sometimes used as a vegetable.[8] The seeds have a nutty flavour and can be dried and roasted, or ground into flour.[8] In China, the seeds are esteemed and eaten like almonds are in the west, being consumed with other seeds at Chinese New Year celebrations.[18] The rind is stir-fried, stewed or more often pickled,[19] and pickled watermelon rind is also sometimes eaten in the Southern US.[20] Watermelon juice can be made into wine, on its own or blended with other fruits.[21] An alcoholic treat called a "hard watermelon" is made by pouring liquor into a hole in the rind of a whole fruit, and then eating the alcohol-permeated flesh.[19]

The amino-acid citrulline was first extracted from watermelon and analyzed.[22] Watermelons contain a significant amount of citrulline and after consumption of several kilograms, an elevated concentration is measured in the blood plasma; this could be mistaken for citrullinaemia or other urea cycle disorders.[23] Watermelon is mildly diuretic[24] and contains large amounts of carotenoids.[25] Watermelon with red flesh is a significant source of lycopene. Preliminary research indicates the consumption of watermelon may have antihypertensive effects.[26] The seed oil has anthelmintic properties.[8]

Varieties

The more than 1200[27] cultivars of watermelon range in weight from less than one to more than 90 kilograms (200 lb); the flesh can be red, orange, yellow or white.[13]

Watermelon with yellow flesh
'Moon and stars' watermelon cultivar

Uses

Watermelon and other fruit in Boris Kustodiev's Merchant's Wife


Gallery

References

  1. ^ Candolle, Origin of Cultivated Plants (1882) pp 262ff, s.v. "Water-melon".
  2. ^ Wehner, Todd C. Watermelon Crop Information. North Carolina State University
  3. ^ Dane, Fenny; Liu, Jiarong (2006). "Diversity and origin of cultivated and citron type watermelon (Citrullus lanatus)". Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 54 (6): 1255. doi:10.1007/s10722-006-9107-3. 
  4. ^ Zohary, Daniel and Hopf, Maria (2000) Domestication of Plants in the Old World, third edition, Oxford University Press, p. 193, ISBN 0-19-850357-1.
  5. ^ Freedman, David Noel and Myers, Allen C. (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 1063–. ISBN 978-90-5356-503-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Maynard, David; Maynard, Donald N. (2012). "6: Cucumbers, melons and watermelons". In Kiple, Kenneth F.; Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè. The Cambridge World History of Food, Part 2. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521402156. ISBN 978-0-521-40215-6. 
  7. ^ "A Systematic Treatment of Fruit Types". Worldbotanical.com. Retrieved 2014-10-07. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai". South Africa National Biodiversity Institute. Retrieved 2014-10-04. 
  9. ^ "Watermelon developer dies at 101". Post and Courier, 16 July 2007
  10. ^ "Good reasons for icebox melons". The Free Library. Sunset. 1985-05-01. Retrieved 2014-10-04. 
  11. ^ "Statistics from: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division". UN Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database. 
  12. ^ Brickell, Christopher (ed) (1992). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening (Print). London: Dorling Kindersley. p. 333. ISBN 978-0-86318-979-1. 
  13. ^ a b "Watermelon Variety Descriptions". Washington State University. Retrieved 2014-10-02. 
  14. ^ Square fruit stuns Japanese shoppers. BBC News, 15 June 2001.
  15. ^ "Square watermelons Japan. English version". YouTube. 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2014-08-03. 
  16. ^ "Watermelon, raw". Nutritional data. Self. Retrieved 2014-10-05. 
  17. ^ a b Todd C. Wehner (2008). "12. Watermelon". In Jaime Prohens and Fernando Nuez. Handbook of plant breeding. Volume 1, Vegetables. I, Asteraceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodicaceae, and Cucurbitaceae. Springer. pp. 381–418. 
  18. ^ Shiu-ying Hu (2005). Food Plants of China. Chinese University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-962-996-229-6. 
  19. ^ a b Anthony F. Chiffolo; Rayner W. Hesse (2006). Cooking with the Bible: Biblical Food, Feasts, and Lore. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 278. ISBN 978-0-313-33410-8. 
  20. ^ Bryant Terry (2009). Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine. Da Capo Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-7867-4503-6. 
  21. ^ Keller, Jack (2002). "Watermelon Wines". Winemaking Home Page. Retrieved 2014-10-05. 
  22. ^ Wada, M. (1930). "Über Citrullin, eine neue Aminosäure im Presssaft der Wassermelone, Citrullus vulgaris Schrad". Biochem. Zeit. 224: 420. 
  23. ^ Mandel, H.; Levy, N.; Izkovitch, S. and Korman, S. H. (2005). "Elevated plasma citrulline and arginine due to consumption of Citrullus vulgaris (watermelon)". Berichte der deutschen chemischen Gesellschaft 28 (4): 467–472. doi:10.1007/s10545-005-0467-1. PMID 15902549. 
  24. ^ The Associated Press (3 July 2008). "CBC News – Health – Watermelon the real passion fruit?". CBC. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  25. ^ "HowStuffWorks "Health Benefits of Watermelon"". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  26. ^ Figueroa A, Sanchez-Gonzalez MA, Wong A, Arjmandi BH (2012). "Watermelon extract supplementation reduces ankle blood pressure and carotid augmentation index in obese adults with prehypertension or hypertension". American journal of hypertension 25 (6): 640–3. doi:10.1038/ajh.2012.20. PMID 22402472. 
  27. ^ "Vegetable Research & Extension Center – Icebox Watermelons". Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  28. ^ "Watermelon growing contest". Georgia 4H. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. 2005. Retrieved 2014-10-05. 
  29. ^ "Golden Midget Watermelon". Archived from the original on 2014-10-05. Retrieved 2014-10-05. 
  30. ^ "Orangeglo Watermelon". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  31. ^ "Moon and Stars Watermelon Heirloom". rareseeds.com. Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  32. ^ Evans, Lynette (2005-07-15). "Moon & Stars watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) — Seed-spittin' melons makin' a comeback". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  33. ^ "Moon and Stars Watermelon". Archived from the original on 2007-06-02. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  34. ^ "Watermelon, Cream Saskatchewan". seedsavers.org. Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. 
  35. ^ "Melitopolski Watermelon". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  36. ^ Hosaka, Tomoko A. (6 June 2008). "Black Japanese watermelon sold at record price". The Associated Pres. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 
  37. ^ "Watermelon May Have Viagra-effect". Science Daily. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  38. ^ "Oklahoma Declares Watermelon Its State Vegetable". CBS4denver. 18 April 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-03-02. Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  39. ^ Brown, Joshua (2006). Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, And the Crisis of Gilded Age America. University of California Press, p. 284, ISBN 0-520-24814-7.
  40. ^ The Asian Texans By Marilyn Dell Brady, Texas A&M University Press