Watermelon is a highly cultivated fruit around the world with more than a thousand varieties all over. Depending on the type, the fruit can range anywhere from under two pounds up to 200 pounds. Watermelon is the largest annual horticultural crop in Texas. Watermelon is grown in over a hundred counties and takes up over 42,000 acres.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Order: Cucurbitales
- Family: Cucurbitaceae
- Genus: Citrullus
- Species: C. lanatus
- Binomial name: Citrullus lanatus
- Watermelons are considered both a fruit and a vegetable
- Every part of the watermelon is edible. The flesh is eaten raw; the rinds can be stir-fried or stewed (in the case of the South, pickled). And the seeds can be dried and roasted and consumed as a snack like pumpkin seeds
- Square watermelons are grown in Japan, but primarily given as gifts or decorations
Watermelon Buying Guide
The first thing you should check when purchasing a watermelon is its weight. For the lack of a better term, it should feel hefty for its size, if a watermelon feels a bit light for its size, place it back and check the next one. The next thing you should check is the yellow spot. This yellow spot is where the watermelon rests on the ground, and you’ll know when it’s perfectly ripe when the color is creamy yellow. Finally, give the watermelon a couple of raps with your knuckles. Perfectly ripe watermelons will have a deep and hollow sound. Underripe or overripe watermelons will have a dull thudding sound.
Watermelon Production & Farming in Texas
In the United States, Texas ranks first in the number of acres used in watermelon production and third in volume of production. It is grown in nearly half of all the counties in Texas, but a large number of that production is not considered commercial, and they end up in farmers’ markets and roadside stalls.
The majority of Texas commercial watermelons are seedless varieties.
Sequential harvests in the Lower Rio Grande starts in April, Winter Garden and East Texas follows in June and July, and then in the Rolling Plains area, August. Late summer and early fall harvests are commonly done in the Southern High Plains and the Cross/Timbers/DeLeon Areas.
Watermelons are the state’s largest annual crop with cash receipts expected to exceed $50 million, and overall statewide economic impact is estimated to exceed $160 million.
Texas ranks third in overall local Watermelon production in the United States.
Watermelon was brought into the continental United States by European colonists and slaves from Africa during the 1500s.
In the Civil war era and beyond, watermelons were commonly grown by free black people and became one of the main symbols for the abolition of slavery. An interesting article on this can be read here: https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/12/how-watermelons-became-a-racist-trope/383529/
Pesticide use for commercial watermelon growers is widely used to sustain production. Four different pesticides are used, and five fungicides to prevent crop loss or yield decline.
The watermelon was originally cultivated in Africa before spreading into the Mediterranean countries and then much later, all over the world. The watermelon has been around for millennia as seeds were found in Libyan and Egyptian tombs dating 4000-5000 years ago.
The watermelon can be grown in favorable climates from tropical to temperate, making it the perfect annual fruit to grow in a lot of places around the world.
Watermelon is harvested by hand and is only touched once or twice pre-harvest. This explains the yellow splotch on the bottom of the watermelon, where it is not exposed to the sun. Larger commercial growers pack it directly to shipping crates in the field.
In stores, watermelons are usually sold whole or sliced in half to expose the meat and the seed structure making it attractive to the buyer.
Ripe watermelons are eaten raw. In some parts of the world, the rind is stewed or fried as part of a vegetable dish. In some parts of Asia, the seeds are dried and roasted to create a snack that is similar to pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
Watermelon is also used in a lot of juice and smoothie preparations.
Whole watermelon can be uncut and unrefrigerated for up to two weeks. Cut watermelon should be wrapped tightly in cling wrap and can be kept in the fridge for up to four days. Do not store uncut watermelon under 50F (10C) for more than a few days, as this will cause the watermelon to decay. Watermelon does not freeze well.
Do not store watermelons with tomatoes or apples; these give off ethylene gas, which will cause the watermelon rind to thin and soften.
Modern cooking techniques have turned the watermelon from a fruit to something very unique. Watermelon can be grilled, pan-fried, baked, or roasted.
The rinds are commonly stewed in Asia and added to vegetable dishes or soups.
- Watermelon contains approximately 7.6 grams of carbs in a 100-gram serving
- The carbs are mostly simple sugars and have a high glycemic index of 72-80
- However, each serving is relatively low in carbs, so eating watermelon in moderate amounts should not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.
- Watermelon is a relatively poor source of fiber providing only 0.4 grams of fiber per 100g serving
- Watermelon is low in calories and fiber and consists mostly of water and simple sugars as well as FODMAPs (Fermentable Short-Chain Carbohydrates), which may cause digestive problems in some people.
- Watermelon contains a negligible (0.6g) amount of protein in a 100-gram serving
- Vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin C
- Watermelon contains 13% of RDI of Vitamin C
- Vitamin C is needed for an excellent immune system and is an excellent antioxidant
- Watermelon contains 113mg or 3% RDI
- Potassium helps in regulating blood pressure and contributes to heart health
- Watermelon contains around 7% of RDI
- Copper is often lacking in the Western diet and watermelon can help supplement that
- Vitamin A
- Watermelon contains 11% of RDI
- Vitamin A is essential for ensuring healthy vision as well as the normal function of your immune system.
- Vitamin C
When Are Watermelons in Season in Texas?
To find out when Watermelons are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.