- WATERMELON – Name, Taxonomy, Botany
- 10 Refreshing Facts About Watermelon
- 1. WATERMELONS ARE BOTH A FRUIT AND A VEGETABLE.
- 2. YOU CAN EAT THE ENTIRE FRUIT.
- 3. THEY’RE CALLED WATERMELONS FOR A REASON.
- 4. THEY COME IN 1200 DIFFERENT VARIETIES.
- 5. THE SEEDLESS ONES ARE NOT GENETICALLY ENGINEERED.
- 6. WATERMELONS CAN GROW TO BE REALLY, REALLY BIG.
- 7. WATERMELONS CAN HELP PREVENT CANCER.
- 8. FARMERS IN JAPAN HAVE PERFECTED THE ART OF GROWING THEM IN ODD SHAPES.
- 9. ONE SOUTH CAROLINA FAMILY KEPT AN HEIRLOOM VARIETY ALIVE FOR ALMOST 100 YEARS.
- 10. THEY’RE THE OFFICIAL STATE VEGETABLE OF OKLAHOMA.
- Mini Watermelons Varieties
- Belle 460
- Gold Flower
- Icebox Watermelon Varieties
- Golden Honey
- White Wonder
- Picnic Watermelon Varieties
- Crimson Sweet
- Seedless Watermelon Varieties
- Burpee Seedless Hybrid
- Want to learn more about growing watermelons?
- Connect With Us!
- 1. Select The Right Varieties
- 2. Plant Only In Warm Soil
- 3. Space Plants Properly
- 4. Protect From Pests
- 5. Feed & Water The Plants
- 6. Harvest When The Time Is Right
- My Top Watermelon Picks
- Saving The Sweetest Watermelon The South Has Ever Known
Watermelon, (Citrullus lanatus), succulent fruit and vinelike plant of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), native to tropical Africa and cultivated around the world. The fruit contains vitamin A and some vitamin C and is usually eaten raw. The rind is sometimes preserved as a pickle.
The history of watermelons is a long one. There is a Sanskrit word for watermelon, and fruits are depicted in early Egyptian art, indicating an antiquity in agriculture of more than 4,000 years. Domestication and selective breeding have resulted in intensely sweet large fruits with tender flesh and fewer seeds. Some modern “seedless” cultivars have almost no viable seeds.
The watermelon plant is an annual that grows well in hot climates. Its vines grow on the ground and have branched tendrils, deeply cut leaves, and flowers borne singly in the axil of a leaf (e.g., where the leaf joins the stem). Each light yellow flower is either male or female, producing only pollen or fruit, respectively.
The fruit is a type of berry known botanically as a pepo. The sweet juicy flesh may be reddish, white, or yellow; flesh colour, shape of the fruit, and thickness of the rind depend on the variety. Watermelon weight varies from 1 to 2 kg (2.5 to 5 pounds) to 20 kg (44 pounds) or more. The number of fruits per vine varies from 2 to 15.
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WATERMELON – Name, Taxonomy, Botany
Back to > Major Fruits | Minor Fruits | Underutilized Fruits
Name, Taxonomy, Botany
|Scientific name:||Citrullus lanatus|
|Bahasa Melayu :||Tembikai; Semangka; Mendikai|
|Indonesian:||Semangka; Cimangko (Indonesia), Watesan (Java)|
|Arabic:||Battikh, Bateekh, Betteakh (Egypt)|
|Chinese:||Xi gua ( Cantonese Si koa), Shi yong xi gua, Choei koa, Ts’ing teng koa, Han koa, Hia koa|
|French:||Melon d’eau, Pastèque|
|German:||Wassemelone (East Germany), Wassermelone , Gewöhnliche Wassermelone, Wasserzitrulle, Wasser-melone|
|Greek:||Karpusi, Karpouzia (Cyprus)|
|Hebrew:||Avatiach, Avatiach pashut|
|Hindi:||Kharbuza ( kharmuja), Tarabuuza (Tarbooz, Tarbuj, Tarbuz, Tarmuj)|
|Italian:||Anguria, Cocomero, Melone d’acqua, Pastecca|
|Japanese:||Suika, Suika, Shokuyou suika (Shokuyô suika), Shokuyou suika, Shokuyou suika|
|Korean:||Su bak (Soo bahk)|
|Laotian:||Môô, Tèèng môô|
|Russian:||Arbuz, Arbuz stolovyj|
|Spanish:||Sandía (Spain), Melón de agua (Cuba), Albudeca|
|Thai:||Taeng chin (Peninsular Thailand), Taeng moh (Central Thailand), Matao (Northern Thailand)|
General Biology: Watermelon belongs to the Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. It is a trailing annual with stems, as long as 400 cm and chayote. The roots are shallow (40-50 cm) and extensive (60-90 cm), with taproot and many lateral roots. Watermelon is a warm season crop and is not chill-resistant. It requires a long growing season in the subtropics, but fast growing in the tropical regions. Flowering and fruit development are promoted by high light intensity and high temperature. Leaf: Leaves are ovate (oval but broader towards the base) to obovate (oval but broader at the apex), 8-20 cm long, scabrid (rough to touch) and deeply pinnatified. The lobes are pinnately divided inti three or four pairs of lobes (see picture below). Stem: The stems are hairy, rounded to angular in cross-section, and have branched tendrils at each node. The stems are highly branched and long (up to 400 cm). The tendrils are pinnately divided into three or four pairs of lobes. Flowers and sex expression: Watermelons bear separate male and female flowers on the same plant (monoecious). The flowers are unisexual, solitary, axillary and pedicillate. The pedicel of male flower is slender and 12-30 cm long; the female flower pedicel is slightly stouter. Female flower: Calyx and corolla as in male. Staminodes 3, tounge-shaped or represented by setae. Ovary is ovoid, pubescent, with 3 placentas and many ovules; style short, columnar; stigmas 3, thick and kidney-shaped (Dayer 1975). Only female flowers set fruit. Bees are necessary for pollen transfer pollen. Male flower: Calyx 5-lobed; tube campanulate; corolla 5-lobed; lobes ovate-oblong, glandular-hairy or setose outside. Stamen 3 or 4, one anther 1-thecous; thecae bent; connective flat and broad; inserted at base of calyx tube. Pistil is absent (Dayer 1975). Watermelon flowers are small, 4-5 cm across, sulphur yellow in color, and less showy than other cucurbits. A few older varieties and accessions collected from the wild are andromonoecious, i.e having staminate and hermaphrodite flowers. Flowering begins at about eight weeks after seeding, with the production of staminate flowers and later followed by the production of pistillate flowers. In some varieties hermaphrodite flowers develop after the production of staminate flowers. Most varieties have a ratio of 7:1 staminate to perfect or pistillate flower. There are some varieties with a ratio of 4:1. There is no advantage of andromonoecious sex expression because even the perfect flowers must be cross-pollinated to set fruit. For successful seedless watermelon production, bees are especially important as seedless varieties do not produce pollen. The pollinator variety is planted in alternate or every third row, or as every third plant in the row. Use a distinctly different variety as pollinator in order to easily distinguish seedless fruit. Icebox varieties used as pollinators result in early yields; picnic varieties used as pollinators result in greater total yields. Icebox varieties usually flower 7–10 days earlier than picnic varieties, so delay icebox pollinator planting. Fruit: The fruit consists of a firm outer rind, a layer of white inner rind flesh of 0.5-1.4 cm thick, and an interior colored edible pulp embedded with seeds (seedy types). The fruit is round to oblong. The skin is smooth with color ranging from yellow, orange, light green to almost black, either solid or striped with a paler green or marbled. The flesh may be white, cream yellow, pale red, red or dark red. The edible part of the fruit is the endocarp (placenta), which contrasts with muskmelon (Cucumis melo), where the edible part of the fruit is the mesocarp. Fruit weight is usually 415 kg. But in Asia, smaller fruit in the range of 1-4 kg is popular. Fruit rind varies from thin to thick and from brittle to tough. Seed: The seeds are embedded in the edible pulp, small in size (4-6 cm), long and flattened (Stone 1970). Seed color can be white, tan, brown, black, red, green, or mottled. Taxonomy and Species Relationship: Watermelon has 22 chromosomes in the diploid form. The genus Citrullus belongs to the sub-tribe Benincasinae. Other members of similar genera in Cucurbitaceae are Acanthosicyos and Eureiandra whilst those with 22 chromosomes include Gymnopetalum, Lagenaria, Momordica, Trichosanthes and Melothria. The genus Citrullis has now been revised to include C. lanatus, C. ecirrhosus, C. colocynthis, and C. rehmii. Reference:
10 Refreshing Facts About Watermelon
August 3 is National Watermelon Day, and throughout summer, the backyard mainstay is added to drinks and served as dessert at barbecues across the country. Here are some tasty facts about this colorful, summertime treat.
1. WATERMELONS ARE BOTH A FRUIT AND A VEGETABLE.
Thanks to their sweet taste, watermelons are most commonly considered a fruit. And they do grow like fruit, originating from flowers that have been pollinated by bees, and, from a botanical perspective, they’re fruits because they contain seeds. But many gardeners think of them as vegetables, since they grow them in their gardens alongside other summer veggies like peas and corn. Not to mention, watermelon is classified as part of a botanical family of gourds that includes other culinary vegetables like cucumber, squash, and pumpkin.
2. YOU CAN EAT THE ENTIRE FRUIT.
While we tend to focus on the melon’s succulent flesh, watermelon rinds are also edible—as well as full of nutrients with surprising health benefits. In China, the rinds are often stir-fried or stewed, while in the South, cooks like to pickle them. And, across the Middle East and China, the seeds are dried and roasted (similar to pumpkin seeds) to make for a light, easy snack.
3. THEY’RE CALLED WATERMELONS FOR A REASON.
They’re 92 percent water, making them a perfect refresher for those hot summer months.
4. THEY COME IN 1200 DIFFERENT VARIETIES.
To make classification a little easier, however, watermelons tend to be grouped into four main categories: seeded (or picnic), seedless, icebox (also known as mini, or personal size) and yellow/orange. One of the most popular varieties is the Crimson Sweet, a seeded melon with deep red, sweet flesh. Some of the more unusual varieties include the Golden Midget, whose rind turns yellow when it’s ripe, and the Cream of Saskatchewan, whose flesh is cream-colored.
5. THE SEEDLESS ONES ARE NOT GENETICALLY ENGINEERED.
Contrary to what you might have heard, seedless watermelons are the result of hybridization, a perfectly natural phenomenon that farmers can nevertheless capitalize on. A couple of decades ago, seedless watermelons were hard to find, but today they make up around 85 percent of those sold in the U.S. And those white “seeds” that you still find in your seedless slices? They’re actually empty seed coats and are perfectly safe to eat.
6. WATERMELONS CAN GROW TO BE REALLY, REALLY BIG.
The heaviest watermelon to date was grown by Guinness World Record holder Chris Kent, of Sevierville, Tennessee, in 2013. A Carolina Cross, it weighed in at 350.5 pounds. To give you some perspective, that’s the equivalent of an NFL lineman.
7. WATERMELONS CAN HELP PREVENT CANCER.
Watermelons are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that’s been shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancers, including prostate, lung, and stomach.
8. FARMERS IN JAPAN HAVE PERFECTED THE ART OF GROWING THEM IN ODD SHAPES.
In Japan, farmers have been growing cube-shaped watermelons for the past 40 years, forcing them into their square shape by cultivating them in box-like braces. When the watermelon fills the cube and gets picked, it’s generally not ripe yet, meaning the inedible melons are sold—for prices upwards of $100—as novelty items and gifts. (The original idea was for them to better fit into standard refrigerators.) More recently, farmers have grown watermelon in the shape of hearts—these particular melons taste as sweet as they look—as well as pyramids and human faces.
9. ONE SOUTH CAROLINA FAMILY KEPT AN HEIRLOOM VARIETY ALIVE FOR ALMOST 100 YEARS.
The unusually sweet Bradford—created by Nathaniel Napoleon Bradford in Sumter County, South Carolina, in the 1840s—was one of the most sought-after varieties of watermelon the South has ever seen. But its soft skin made it hard to transport, and by the early 1920s it had proved to be commercially unviable. It would have disappeared completely had the Bradford family not kept it alive in their backyard gardens for multiple generations. It’s now being grown commercially again by Nat Bradford, Nathaniel’s great-great-great grandson.
10. THEY’RE THE OFFICIAL STATE VEGETABLE OF OKLAHOMA.
In 2007, the Oklahoma State Senate honored its then-14th biggest crop by voting 44–2 to make it the state vegetable. (Why not fruit? That distinction was already given to the strawberry.) Its celebrated status was threatened in 2015, however, when State Senator Nathan Dahm moved to repeal the bill based on the argument that watermelon is a fruit. Thankfully for Oklahoma’s Rush Springs, home to an annual watermelon festival and the original bill’s sponsor, then-State Representative Joe Dorman, Dahm’s bill died in committee.
By Julie Christensen
Seasoned vegetable gardeners are a bit like fishermen boasting about their catch. They gauge their success as gardeners by the size of the fruit in their watermelon patch. Growing watermelon in the home garden is a cinch — if you have the right conditions and you choose the best watermelon type.
Watermelons are native to Africa and thrive in warm, moist conditions. They need at least 90 sunny, warm days to mature, and large picnic types can take up to 130 days to ripen. This poses a problem for gardeners in the North, where a typical growing season may be only 80 days.
To combat a short growing season, Northern gardeners have to think strategically. Try planting seedlings, rather than seeds, and lay black plastic mulch over the soil two weeks before planting time. Black plastic mulch heats up the soil by 10 degrees so you can plant earlier. And, once you do plant, the tiny seedlings grow more quickly because they’re kept warm.
Don’t miss our watermelon nutritional information.
Watermelon needs full sun and rich soil to promote healthy leaf and vine development. Dig in several inches of compost or manure before planting, and fertilize watermelon after the plants start to flower. Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Try using drip systems or soaker systems instead of overhead sprinklers. These methods deliver water right to the plants’ roots and reduce the chance of fungal diseases spread by wet leaves.
Most importantly, select varieties known to perform well in your region. For example, in the North, gardeners should plant smaller watermelon varieties, which ripen sooner than larger varieties. Below are a few of the best watermelon varieties to plant.
Mini Watermelons Varieties
Mini, or personal watermelons have become very popular in the grocery store. These watermelons are known for their sweetness and are the ideal size for a small family.
This mini watermelon takes 85 days to mature and produces 5-pound fruits. Belle 460 produces round fruit with deep red flesh. Fruit measures 9.5 on the Brix scale, which means it is sweet to very sweet.
For a change of pace, try this mini watermelon with a yellow rind. The fruit ripens in 87 days and produces very sweet, red flesh, measuring 10.3 on the Brix scale.
Gold Flower ripens in 90 days and produces yellow fruit, which is very sweet. The average fruit size is around 5.9 pounds.
This variety matures in 88 days and its fruit measures 9.9 on the Brix scale. Wonder watermelon are strikingly beautiful with their dark green, dull rinds, and deep red flesh offset by a very white inner rind.
Icebox Watermelon Varieties
Small icebox varieties are usually round and weigh around 10 pounds. They keep well and provide enough fruit for a larger family.
Boston matures in only 85 days, making it a good choice for Northern gardeners. The fruit measures 10.1 on the Brix scale. This is a classic watermelon variety with a green, striped rind and red flesh.
Golden Honey produces orange-fleshed fruit within 93 days. The 10 pound fruits measure 9.2 on the Brix scale.
Poquito is one of the best choices for short-season gardens. It matures in only 78 days and produces 10 pound fruits that measure 11.0 on the Brix scale.
White Wonder variety produces greenish white flesh, similar to a honeydew melon. The fruits mature in 93 days and weigh around 8.5 pounds.
Picnic Watermelon Varieties
These are the big boys of the watermelon fields, averaging between 10 and 15 pounds. As the name implies, they’re ideal for large gatherings, but are almost too big to store in the refrigerator. We’ve chosen picnic watermelon varieties that mature quickly while retaining great flavor.
Crimson Sweet produces fruit averaging around 15 pounds. Fruit matures in 89 days and the red flesh measures around 9.9 on the Brix scale.
Ideal for the Northern gardener, Harmony ripens in only 78 days, producing 12 pound fruits that measure 11.2 on the Brix scale.
Sultan is one of the sweetest varieties you’ll find, this one measures 12.3 on the Brix scale. The fruits average 15 pounds and ripen within 95 days.
Seedless Watermelon Varieties
Seedless watermelon are hugely popular in grocery stores for obvious reasons — no mess. Many people think seeded watermelon actually taste better, though. If you want to grow seedless watermelon, buy nursery seedlings because the seeds are hard to germinate. Plant a seeded variety with your seedless watermelon to ensure pollination and fruit set.
Burpee Seedless Hybrid
One of the few seedless varieties available to home growers. This watermelon produces 8-pound fruit within 90 days.
Want to learn more about growing watermelons?
See these websites:
Watermelon Variety Descriptions at Washington State University
Growing Seedless Watermelon from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension
Julie Christensen learned about gardening on her grandfather’s farm and mother’s vegetable garden in southern Idaho. Today, she lives and gardens on the high plains of Colorado. When she’s not digging in the dirt, Julie writes about food, education, parenting and gardening.
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PHOTO: Jessica Walliserby Jessica Walliser June 2, 2016
Picked at the peak of ripeness, homegrown watermelons are beyond compare. Commercial growers focus on just a handful of varieties, making the incredible diversity of the watermelon world unavailable to grocery-store shoppers. The most delicious melons are only available to those who grow their own.
If you’d like to try your hand at growing some of the most flavorful watermelon varieties, here are six tips to ensure your success.
1. Select The Right Varieties
Watermelons love hot weather and require a long season to mature. If you live in a northern climate, select a variety with a shorter number of days to maturity. While southern growers will have no trouble growing a melon that takes 100-plus days to set fruit, northern gardeners would do better to choose one that matures in 75-80 days instead. Also, look for varieties with noted disease resistance. Watermelons are prone to powdery mildew, anthracnose, Alternaria blight. and a few other diseases; if these diseases have been problematic in your garden in the past, choose only resistant varieties.
2. Plant Only In Warm Soil
Planting watermelons too early is the kiss of death, especially north of the Mason-Dixon Line. You can get a jump start on the season by starting watermelon seeds in plantable peat pots three to four weeks before the danger of frost has passed. Move started seedlings out into the garden only after the soil temperature has warmed to 60 degrees F. If you plan to start your watermelons by sowing the seeds directly into the garden, wait until soil temperatures reach 70 degrees F.
Black or dark-green plastic mulch can be used to raise soil temperatures prior to planting. Lay the plastic over the planting beds two to three weeks before planting, and wait until well after the danger of frost has passed before planting watermelons through holes cut in the plastic.
3. Space Plants Properly
Watermelons require a lot of room. Their rambling vines can easily cover a lot of garden real estate. Space vines 3 to 4 feet apart, and keep 5 feet between rows. After planting, mulch the plants with a 2-inch layer of straw or shredded leaves if plastic mulch isn’t being used.
4. Protect From Pests
For the first few weeks of growth, watermelon seedlings should be covered with a layer of summer-weight floating row cover. This transparent fabric keeps cucumber beetles, squash bugs and other pests at bay. Remove it when the plants come into flower to allow access to pollinators.
5. Feed & Water The Plants
Watermelons love hot weather, but they do not love drought. Make sure your watermelon plants receive an inch of water per week throughout the growing season. Not enough water results in poor fruit set and small fruits. But, too much water the week or two before harvest, can result in watered-down watermelon flavor or even cracked fruit.
Watermelon plants are heavy feeders. Before planting, work lots of organic matter into the soil, such as aged horse manure or compost. As soon as the fruit begins to set, begin to fertilize with an organic liquid fertilizer twice a month. Select a fertilizer that provides more phosphorous and potassium than nitrogen to encourage good fruit set and growth.
6. Harvest When The Time Is Right
To pick watermelons at their peak flavor, check the tendril closest to the fruit every day. When it dries and turns brown, the melon is ready for harvest. There should also be a bright-yellow spot on the bottom side of the fruit. Remember, watermelons will not ripen once they’re severed from the vine, so waiting until they’re fully ripe is absolutely necessary for the sweetest flavor.
My Top Watermelon Picks
Here are a few delicious watermelon varieties worth growing:
- Golden Midget: yellow rind with pink flesh; miniature melons; great flavor
- Blacktail Mountain: dark rind with crimson flesh; fast-maturing heirloom; 8-pound melons.
- Klondike Blue: extremely sweet; oblong-shaped heirloom; vigorous vines with good production
- New Queen: bright-orange flesh; juicy with few seeds; super sweet, 6-pound fruits
- Sugar Pot: compact plant that’s great for containers; 10-pound fruits on small plants; nice, sweet flavor.
Saving The Sweetest Watermelon The South Has Ever Known
Nat Bradford holds a Bradford watermelon, known for its sweet, fragrant red flesh. The melon was created by Bradford’s forefathers around 1840 and was once one of the most important and coveted melons of the South. Heather Grilliot/Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons hide caption
toggle caption Heather Grilliot/Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons
Nat Bradford holds a Bradford watermelon, known for its sweet, fragrant red flesh. The melon was created by Bradford’s forefathers around 1840 and was once one of the most important and coveted melons of the South.
Heather Grilliot/Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons
The most luscious watermelon the Deep South has ever produced was once so coveted, 19th-century growers used poison or electrocuting wires to thwart potential thieves, or simply stood guard with guns in the thick of night. The legendary Bradford was delectable — but the melon didn’t ship well, and it all but disappeared by the 1920s. Now, eight generations later, a great-great-great-grandson of its creator is bringing it back.
The story of the Bradford begins on a prison ship during the American Revolutionary War. It was 1783, and the British had captured an American soldier named John Franklin Lawson and shipped him off to the West Indies to be imprisoned. Aboard the prison ship, the Scottish captain gave Lawson a wedge of watermelon that was so succulent, he saved every seed. When he got home to Georgia, Lawson planted the seeds and grew a popular watermelon. Around 1840, Nathaniel Napoleon Bradford of Sumter County, S.C., crossed the Lawson with the Mountain Sweet. By the 1860s, the Bradford watermelon was the most important late-season melon in the South.
Nat Bradford inherited his forefathers’ love of farming. “I grew my first patch of Bradford melons when I was 5 years old,” he says. “This watermelon is like a kiss from heaven to me.” Heather Grilliot/Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons hide caption
toggle caption Heather Grilliot/Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons
The Bradford boasted fragrant red flesh, pearly seeds and a rind so soft you could slice it with a butter knife. The fruit was more than just a savory summer treat — its sweet juice was routinely boiled into molasses or distilled into brandy for cocktails garnished with fruit and syrup, and the smooth soft rinds were pickled. Home cooks often turned to watermelon molasses to preserve fresh fruit for the winter.
But the oblong, soft-skinned Bradford was never suited to stacking and long-distance shipping. In 1922, the last commercial crop was planted, and the melon wholly gave way to varieties with tough rinds. For the rest of the century, the Bradford survived only because family members went on planting it in their backyards and saving seeds — making sure to plant it at least a mile from any other melon, so that it wouldn’t cross-pollinate and lose its purity.
Meanwhile, around 2005, David Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina, began hunting without much hope for a surviving Bradford melon. Shields is author of Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine, and his current mission is to restore antebellum cultivars and foodways. He’d been researching important melons of the 19th century and concluded the precious melon was extinct. Says Shields: “I checked germ plasm banks, seed saver’s exchanges, read original seed catalogs from the 1800s, and wrote watermelon growers in the boondocks rumored to have old melons. They tended to have old bad melons, though. I almost lost hope.”
That all changed on Oct. 31, 2012, when Shields woke up to an email response from Nat Bradford, a landscape architect in Sumter, S.C., inquiring whether his family’s backyard melon was the famous Bradford.
“My family has been maintaining this watermelon in a little field in Sumter, S.C. for well nigh onto 100 years that I know for sure,” wrote Bradford. Shields’ heart leaped. Not only was it the Bradford — Shields now knew it could be revived.
Bradford watermelons sit on a joggling board at Nat Bradford’s home in Sumter, S.C. Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons hide caption
toggle caption Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons
Bradford watermelons sit on a joggling board at Nat Bradford’s home in Sumter, S.C.
Courtesy of Bradford Watermelons
Though there are literally hundreds of watermelon cultivars in America today — ranging from the supersized Sangria to the delicate Sugar Baby and the common supermarket icebox varieties — the Bradford was in a class all of its own.
“To give you an idea of the splendid sweetness of this melon,” says Shields, “its ‘brix’ measurement is 12.5.” Brix is a widely used sweetness rating, and most melons hover around 10, which is already considered very sweet.
Shields implored Bradford to help restore the watermelon to its iconic glory. Bradford had inherited his forefathers’ love of farming, and he embraced the idea of reviving his family’s sweet melon legacy. In the wet, cool summer of 2013, Bradford took a few mason jars of precious seeds and began to restore the heirloom melon. He adopted a classic way of farming that helps cull the strongest plants. He created small hills, planting 12 seeds to a hill. The 12 sprouts on each hill were thinned to the six strongest, and those were soon culled to the two strongest. Finally, he had 220 hills with two plants per hill, for a total of 440 plants, and the melons thrived. “We grew 465 watermelons that summer,” Bradford says proudly.
Workers at High Wire Distilling in Charleston, S.C., cut Bradford watermelons into small pieces to smash through a screen in order to extract the juice and preserve the seeds. High Wire distilled the juice into 143 bottles of heirloom brandy — 750 ml and $79 each — not made since the last century. Courtesy of High Wire Distilling hide caption
toggle caption Courtesy of High Wire Distilling
Workers at High Wire Distilling in Charleston, S.C., cut Bradford watermelons into small pieces to smash through a screen in order to extract the juice and preserve the seeds. High Wire distilled the juice into 143 bottles of heirloom brandy — 750 ml and $79 each — not made since the last century.
Courtesy of High Wire Distilling
Then the fun began. He hauled 300 melons to Charleston, where James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, owner of McCrady’s Restaurant, took 50 and crafted watermelon molasses and pickles to serve at his famous eatery. Another 140 melons were carted to High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, where co-owner Scott Blackwell and his crew spent 12 hours mashing the fruit and pressing out juice to distill into 143 bottles of heirloom brandy — 750 ml and $79 each — not made since the last century. The brandy was light and smooth, with a fragrant top note of watermelon. Every last bottle sold out.
Bradford was hooked. He saved about 25,000 seeds, packaging some to sell via his website, Bradford Watermelons, and donating a few dozen to NGOs in water-thirsty Bolivia and later, Tanzania, to see if they might grow a refreshing, drought-resistant fruit.
North Carolina-based April McGreger, owner of Farmer’s Daughter Pickles and Preserves, used the Bradford to craft 150 jars of traditional Southern pickled watermelon rinds, as well as watermelon jam. Lissa Gotwals/Courtesy of Farmer’s Daughter Brand Pickles and Preserves hide caption
toggle caption Lissa Gotwals/Courtesy of Farmer’s Daughter Brand Pickles and Preserves
The following year, he hooked up with North Carolina-based April McGreger, owner of Farmer’s Daughter Pickles and Preserves, who describes her business thus: “I promote old Southern recipes, fruits, and forgotten flavors, using local ingredients and classic techniques.” McGreger grew up in Mississippi with sweet, pickled watermelon rind spiced with clove and cinnamon. She crafted 150 jars of traditional Southern pickled watermelon rinds, as well as watermelon jam. She brought both over to the Slow Food International conference in Turin, Italy, in October of 2014. Once again, the Bradford sold out.
This year, Nat Bradford plans to grow 1,000 watermelons — and then some. He’s also growing Bradford collard greens and Bradford okra, and he’s trying to breed a cold-hardy peach that can survive the South Carolina winter.
“My hope is to steer my life into a fusion of sustainable farming and landscape architecture,” he says. “I grew my first patch of Bradford melons when I was 5 years old. This watermelon is like a kiss from heaven to me.”
Jill Neimark is an Atlanta-based writer whose work has been featured in Discover, Scientific American, Science, Nautilus, Aeon, Psychology Today and The New York Times.
Pretty much every food can trace its origins to one region and has a city that claims to be its capital. For example, Blackfoot, Idaho, is the “Potato Capital of the World.” There’s a “Salmon Capital of the World” (Ketchikan, Alaska), a “Steak Capital of the World” (Lincoln, Nebraska) and a “Strawberry Capital of the World” (Watsonville, California). And, for some reason, Old Forge, Pennsylvania, is the “Pizza Capital of the World.”
But which city would you need to plug into your GPS to travel to the “Watermelon Capital of the World”? That question is a little harder to answer.
Turns out, seven U.S. cities call themselves the center of the watermelon universe, and all of them have good reasons for laying claim to the title. Oh sure, other foods have multiple cities locked in a battle for the capital crown, but when it comes to watermelon, the sweet battle is the fiercest in the nation.
Here’s a look at each “Watermelon Capital of the World,” along with what makes them deserving of the name. Which one is most deserving of the title? Leave a comment with your thoughts to help settle this debate once and for all!
CORDELE, GEORGIA – Cordele is located in Crisp County, which is the number one watermelon-producing county in the nation’s number two watermelon-producing state. Cordele has an annual Watermelon Days Festival and an auto-racing track called the Watermelon Capital Speedway.
HOPE, ARKANSAS – Hope has a lot to brag about. Besides being the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton, it’s also where some of the world’s largest watermelons are grown (including a then world record holder in 2005). The town holds an annual watermelon festival and even features watermelon in its municipal logo along with the Hope slogan, “A Slice of the Good Life.”
WEATHERFORD, TEXAS – The north Texas city was once one of the state’s biggest watermelon growers (not so much anymore) and once featured an oversized watermelon sculpture outside its courthouse.
GREEN RIVER, UTAH – The tiny town of Green River (population 929) may not be big, but it is home to the “World’s Largest Watermelon.” The old wooden wedge (above) is kept in storage in a hangar in the Green River Airfield and makes appearances at events like Green River’s annual Melon Days Festival.
NAPLES, TEXAS – A lot of watermelons are grown in Naples, and the town has a watermelon festival. That’s about it, really. Oh, the watermelon festival also includes a rodeo. That’s pretty sweet, right?
BEARDSTOWN, ILLINOIS – While other towns call themselves the “Watermelon Capital of the World,” Beardstown only calls itself the “Watermelon Capital.” And for good reason: The town is one of the most prolific watermelon-growers in the state.
RUSH SPRINGS, OKLAHOMA – Rush Springs fulfills all of the usual “Watermelon Capital” requirements. Grow a lot of watermelon? Check. Got a big annual watermelon festival? Check. Actually, that last one is a big check. The Rush Springs Watermelon Festival is one of the state’s most popular festivals, attracting more than 20,000 visitors and serving nearly 50,000 pounds of watermelon each year.
China – 79.2 Million Tons
In China, the majority of Watermelon is produced in the Gansu province, where the climate is favorable for its cultivation. The fruit produced here is of excellent quality because of the special type of climate of the region. The area has maximum sunlight and the precipitation in the area is minimal at 40-538 millimeters in the most important production areas. In the season of watermelon, the temperature ranges from 12 to 16 degrees Celsius. The cultivation technology used in the area is sowing into the open field. In other areas, tunnel production and seedling transplanting are used in production.
Turkey – 3.9 Million Tons
In Turkey, the fruit is mostly produced in the Antalya’s Manavgat District. The district is so well-known for its watermelon production that it hosts a watermelon festival every year. The fruit also has an important place in the country from economical point of view as 10% of total production comes from Turkey.
Iran – 2.8 Million Tons
In Iran, watermelon is produced in the Hamadan province, and the production covers nearly 1.2% of total area of this particular province. The energy usage in the production was direct and indirect and the farmers use renewable and non-renewable energy. The seeding, chemical fertilizers, modern technology, and spraying are used for its production.