Every year on August 3, National Watermelon Day is celebrated in the United States. Watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant with a special kind of fruit referred to by botanists as a pepo, a berry which has many seeds, a thick rind and fleshy center. For many people (myself included), the watermelon is a favorite summertime snack that just happens to be 92% water and filled with yummy history and fun facts.
Although the Kalahari Desert of South Africa is believed to be the origin of the watermelon, it is the Egyptians who are credited with the first harvest. According to hieroglyphics found on walls in many ancient Egyptian buildings, the first watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago. Hieroglyphics also show watermelons being placed in the burial tombs of royalty as means of nourishment in the afterlife—talk about food fit for a king. Thanks to the merchant ships along the Mediterranean Sea, watermelons quickly spread throughout other countries. By the 10th century, the fruit had found its way to China, which is now the world’s largest producer of watermelon. By the 13th century, watermelon had spread through the remainder of Europe and the rest is history. Today watermelon exists in over 1200 varieties in 96 countries worldwide. You can find red, pink, white, and yellow melons in various shapes and sizes.
How to choose a ripe melon:
- Look the watermelon over. You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts, or dents.
- Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size; most of the weight is water.
- Turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Although National Watermelon Day is not recognized as a true national holiday, which literally requires an act of Congress, it is a fun day to celebrate by eating a slice and reading a book.
Some good watermelon reads:
Watermelon Day by Kathi Appelt
The Berenstain Bears and the Missing Watermelon Money by Stan Berenstain
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
Avondale Regional Branch Library