NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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National Watermelon Day

National Watermelon Day         

          What better way to celebrate summer than with watermelon?  Which is probably one of the reasons, August 3 is designated as National Watermelon Day.

          Watermelon is thought to have originated in southern Africa, where it is found growing wild.  Watermelon in its native form is far more than the sweet variety we are familiar with. Watermelon can be sweet, bland or even bitter. It reaches maximum genetic diversity there, with sweet, bland and bitter forms.

          Evidence of its cultivation in the Nile Valley was found from the second millennium BC. Watermelon seeds were found at in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

          By the 10th century, watermelons were being cultivated in China, which is today the world's single largest watermelon producer. By the 13th century, Moorish invaders had introduced the fruit to Europe; according to John Mariani's Dictionary of American Food and Drink, "watermelon" made its first appearance in an English dictionary in 1615.

          Watermelons were grown by Native Americans in the 16th century. Early French explorers found the fruit being cultivated in the Mississippi Valley. Many sources list the watermelon as being introduced in Massachusetts as early as 1629.        

          Today, farmers in approximately 44 states in the US grow watermelon commercially. Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are the US's largest watermelon producers.

          Watermelon isn't just a summertime picnic snack.  Its delicious taste includes a powerhouse of vitamins. 

          Lycopene - Lycopene is what gives watermelon its beautiful pinkish red flesh color, and according to the United States Department of Agriculture, it has been found by researchers to reduce the risk of heart attacks and cancer. High concentrations of lycopene are within the juice, so when you're done with your bowl of watermelon, be sure to drink it.

          Vitamins A and C. – Watermelon is an excellent source of Vitamin C, which a major antioxidant. It has a high beta carotene concentration, thus offering a fair amount of vitamin A as well. High intakes of combined beta-carotene and vitamin C have demonstrated, through clinical and scientific studies, the ability to ward off various cancers and heart disease, reducing arthritis symptoms, and minimize asthmatic breathing problems.

          Vitamin B - A surprise nutrient in watermelon is vitamin B, especially B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine). Thiamine is important for maintaining electrolytes and nervous system signal transmissions throughout the body. Pyridoxine is essential for enzymatic functions that convert food into cellular energy.

          Potassium and Magnesium - Then there are the minerals of potassium and magnesium, which watermelons also offer abundantly. Potassium is important for cardiovascular health and brain health and helps the kidneys eliminate kidney stone forming calcium as well as assists with the body's fluid retention. Magnesium is involved with over 300 cellular metabolic functions.

          Calories – There are just 46 calories in a 1 cup serving of watermelon balls. A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 91% water by weight.

          A frequent question with watermelons is how to tell when it is ripe. Begin by checking the underside of the watermelon. Once fully ripe, the part of the watermelon that touches the ground will become flattened and yellow. If the spot is too white or pale, the melon is not ready for harvest.

          Next, tap the watermelon, whether on the vine or at the store. The watermelon will sound dull and hollow -- similar to a thud -- at its ripest. The more dull and hollow the sound, the more ripened the watermelon.

          So allow yourself to indulge in a great tasting, refreshing, and healthy treat with watermelon whenever you desire.

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