Watermelon is a fruit with 1,200 varieties found in 96 countries. This gives watermelon lovers around the world a vast range of taste and variety with this fruit. There are many interesting facts about the watermelon. Today hybrid watermelons can be grown without seed, but the original fruit has large black or brown seeds. The seeds themselves have become a food staple in many parts of the world.
The scientific name of watermelon is Citrullus lanatus from the Cucurbitaceae family. The plant is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. Watermelon from seeds are oblong in shape and weigh from 15 to 45 lbs. The skin is yellow when young but turns various colors of pale to dark green as it matures. The seeds are brown or black and are found throughout the fruit.
The first recorded harvesting of watermelon was in Ancient Egypt. The first published cookbook in the United States, dated 1796, had a recipe for watermelon rind pickles. Early settlers used the shell of the watermelon as a canteen by poking a hole in the top and drinking the juice.
Seeded watermelon grows on a vine and needs lots of room to grow. The seeds must be planted in hills 1 inch deep; hills should be spaced 6 feet apart. Rows of hills need to be 7 to 10 feet apart. After the seeds sprout, plants must be thinned three to a hill. To start seeds indoors they must be planted in peat pots three weeks before planned transplanting outside. Seedless watermelon must have one seeded variety alongside it to germinate and produce fruit.
Watermelons should be kept free from weeds by shallow hoeing and cultivation. The plants have moderately deep roots and watering is seldom necessary unless the weather turns dry for a prolonged period. In cooler areas, experienced gardeners may find floating row covers, drip irrigation and black plastic mulch advantageous in producing a good crop in a short season.
Watermelon is 92 percent water and is the most-consumed melon in the United States. The largest watermelon from seed was grown by Bill Carson of Arrington, Tennessee, in 1990; the melon weighed 262 lbs., setting world records. There are 602 calories in one cup of watermelon seeds, according to the National Watermelon Board. The seeds are made of 50 percent oil, which explains the high calorie count. Watermelon seeds are good sources for several minerals and vitamins. The seeds can be roasted to eat; to gain any nutritional value from watermelon seeds the hard outer shell must be chewed and broken.