by Kate Heyhoe
Watermelon is a lycopene leader among fresh fruit and vegetables. A plant pigment found in only a few red plant foods such as tomatoes and watermelon, lycopene is thought to have powerful antioxidant capabilities and may help to prevent certain diseases. While tomatoes traditionally have been used in lycopene research because of their established lycopene levels, scientists recently discovered that watermelon have as much lycopene—or more—than that found in raw tomato. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains 18.16 mg while one medium-sized tomato contains 4 mg. Studies also suggest that the bioavailability of lycopene in fresh watermelon may be comparable to that in tomato juice.
With watermelon season ramping up, I thought you'd enjoy learning a but more about this refreshing fruit that goes down easy, courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
Watermelon's origin traces back to the Kalahari Desert in Africa.
The first recorded watermelon harvest dates back to Egypt over 5,000 years ago.
The first cookbook published in America in 1796 featured a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
In China and Japan watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.
In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.
Watermelon is 92% water.
Watermelon's official name is Citrullus lanatus of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae and it is a vegetable! It is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. In 2001, over 4 billion pounds of watermelon were produced in the United States.
Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.
The word "watermelon" first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.
Food Historian John Martin Taylor says that early Greek settlers brought the method of pickling watermelon with them to Charleston, South Carolina.
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.
In 1990, Bill Carson, of Arrington, Tennessee, grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds that is still on the record books according to the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Over 1,200 varieties of watermelon are grown worldwide, in 96 countries.
Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn't contain any fat or cholesterol, is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 and C, and contains fiber and potassium, as well as lycopene.
Every part of a watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Contrary to popular belief eating watermelon seeds does not cause a watermelon to grow in your stomach. Actually, in some cultures it is popular to bake the seeds and then eat them.
Follow these tips to pick the best watermelon available.
1. Look the watermelon over, choose a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents.
2. Lift it up—the watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water, which accounts for most of its weight.
3. Turn it over—on the underside of the watermelon there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created June 2004
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