By Diane Forrest
You know its summertime when you see those big watermelons hit the tables. There is nothing better than diving in to an ice cold slice and feeling the sweet juice dripping down your chin and fingers. After all they are 90 to 92 % water. Then holding the seeds in your mouth to spit them out for a seed spitting contest to see how far you can make them fly.
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.
Today is National Watermelon Day. It’s the perfect time to ice one down and slice it up. Here are some fun facts about Watermelons:
- The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
- 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 1776 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).