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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Facts

Watermelon


Watermelon

"When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat." -Mark Twain

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.
- Charles Simic
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History
  • At the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904, Oklahoma exhibited three watermelons with the combined weight of 334 pounds. One, the largest of the Exposition, weighed 117 pounds.
  • C. Fred Andrus, an agricultural researcher, developed the first sweet melon that could be stacked, because it was shaped like an oval, called oblong. About a half-century ago, watermelons were round. They were hard to stack and rolled around during the rough ride from farm to market. Since they were also soft, all that bumping made them crack and bruise. Today most watermelons are oblong.
  • Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) are native to the Kalahari desert of Southern Africa.
  • The first record of watermelon harvest is found in Egyptian hieroglyphics on tomb walls dating back 5000 years. Watermelon were left as food to nourish the dearly departed in the afterlife.
  • From Egypt, merchant ships carried watermelons to countries along the Mediterranean Sea. They were documented in China in the 10th Century, and in the 13th Century were found throughout the rest of Europe after being introduced by the Moors
  • A watermelon was once thrown at Roman Governor Demosthenes during a political debate. Placing the watermelon upon his head, he thanked the thrower for providing him with a helmet to wear as he fought Philip of Macedonia.
  • Watermelon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and made its way to North America with African slaves.
  • Watermelon first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.
Nutrition
  • Watermelon is the natural sports drink. It is rich in the electrolytes (sodium + potassium) that we lose when we sweat.
  • Watermelon does not contain any fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and contains fiber, potassium and lycopene.
  • Scientists have found that watermelon contains more of the health-promoting compound locopene per serving than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene gives watermelon and tomatoes their red color and is thought to act as a powerful antioxidant that may help to reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
  • Every part of the watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds.
  • Watermelon seeds can be roasted and eaten like pumpkin seeds. They are a great source of amino acids.
  • During the Civil War the Confederate Army boiled down watermelons as a source of sugar and molasses.
  • Watermelon is 92 percent water. Early explorers used them as canteens.
  • Oklahoma State University has developed a nutrient dense candy bar that tastes like watermelon. The student Food Industry Club, with the help of the Oklahoma Food and Agricultural Products Research and Technology Center developed the the candy, called LycoTreat.
Production
  • Most watermelons weigh from 5-50 pounds, but some weigh as much as 100 pounds.
  • Because watermelons are so fragile, they cannot be harvested by machine. Instead workers carefully toss them in a relay from field to truck.
  • Oklahoma ranks number 12 nationally in the production of watermelon.
  • Watermelon is grown in over 96 countries worldwide.

Watermelon snow is a unique phenomenon in which snow appears pink or red and has a distinctive watermelon scent. It is common to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California in the summer months at altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. The pink snow is caused by an algae called chlamydomonas nivalis which thrives in very cold temperatures. The cells of the algae have a gelatinous sheath that protect them from the strong ultra-violet radiation of the sun at high altitudes, and it is this sheath that produces the pink color and odor! Unfortunately, the similarities end there. This particular algae is toxic.