During the long, hot and dry days of midsummer, nothing hits the juicy spot quite like a slice of watermelon. August 3 is National Watermelon Day, and for good reason.
Wahoo! It’s National Watermelon Day!
It’s believed that watermelon cultivation began in the Nile Valley in northern Africa as early as the second millennium BCE. Watermelon seeds were even found in the tomb of the legendary King Tut.
Watermelons are part of the cucurbit family, the same as pumpkins, squash, zucchini and cucumber, and that’s most obvious in the way the melons grow – on the vine. The plants in this family are grown around the tropics and in temperate areas, where those with edible fruits were among the earliest cultivated plants in both the Old and New Worlds.
Today, there are more than 1,000 different varieties of watermelon. The fruit is technically a berry (trivia!) and its flesh is usually deep red to pink, although newer types can have orange or even yellow juicy bits. The flesh is usually eaten raw but it can also be pickled, and once the rind is cooked, it can also be eaten.
Many cultivars produce fruit within 100 days of planting, which makes it a quick and easy crop for either enjoying at home or selling at a farm stand. There are things that growers need to keep an eye out for, however, such as pests like thrips, Japanese beetles, grasshoppers and striped cucumber beetles, as well as diseases such as anthracnose, Cercospora leaf spot, downy mildew and Fusarium wilt. Careful management and scouting should help cultivators keep those issues to a minimum, however.
A nice, chilled slice of watermelon is great for a summer day treat, but according to Healthline, it’s a healthy treat too. As its name suggests, watermelon helps you stay hydrated. It contains a ton of vitamins A and C and potassium. And, because of all the other tiny but powerful micronutrients it contains, watermelon has tentatively been linked to better heart health, better muscle health and better digestion.
The National Watermelon Promotion Board provides a ton of awesome information on this large, tasty berry, so be sure to check it out.