Watermelon , without a doubt, one of the tastiest and most delicious fruits of summer . With it, not only can we quench our thirst by having a large amount of water, but it can also be used to make drinks and even ice cream. Today it is so popular, so “ours”, that it is difficult to find someone who knows why we can enjoy this delicious fruit. And it is not for less since it began to be cultivated several thousand years ago.
In fact, the first traces of its cultivation date back to 3000 BC, and were found in an incredible place: Egypt. But what is the true origin of the watermelon?
- 1 Origin of the watermelon
- 2 The ancient Egyptians, the experts in the cultivation of watermelon
- 3 The watermelon, ready to invade the world
- 4 Improving its taste… even more
Origin of the watermelon
It is very difficult to find the primitive origin of this plant. It is known that it began to be cultivated about 5,000 years ago in the northwest of the African continent, but nothing more. But where did those watermelons come from? Who were their parents and where did they come from? It is not known. It is so complicated that botanists do not agree.
And, since no one agrees, there are theories for all tastes. For experts, there are only three possible candidates:
- Citron melon: it is a plant that began to be cultivated about 4000 years ago, in North Africa. There are many researchers who doubt that this is the most direct ancestor, since at that time in southern Africa agriculture had not yet been invented.
- Egusi melon: native to West Africa. It is also questioned, since it is not grown for its pulp but for its seeds, just the opposite of modern watermelons.
- Citrullus lanatus var. colocynthoides: grows in northwest Africa, and is the one that most likely gave rise to the watermelons we can enjoy today.
The ancient Egyptians, the experts in the cultivation of watermelon
Despite living in a country where rainfall is very scarce, they have the Nile River, which allowed them to grow a wide variety of plants, such as corn and of course our protagonist, the watermelon. Undoubtedly it must have seemed like an incredible fruit, not so much because of its taste, which at that time was bitter, nor because of its shell, which was so hard that they had to crush it if they wanted to consume it, but because of its water , a liquid that acquires great value when living near the desert.
This is how they began to cultivate them, and surely the first thing they did was improve the taste, which must have been very easy for them, since this characteristic is determined by a single dominant gene, so they had to resort to selective breeding. remove in no time.
Soon after, the producers began to select other characteristics. They wanted a fruit that could be served fresh, so eventually they got watermelons that were soft enough to cut and eat .
The watermelon, ready to invade the world
Although the skin was still a bit hard, the watermelon began to invade other places little by little. Around 400 B.C. C., went from being only in the northwest of the African continent, to spread throughout the Mediterranean countries , such as Greece, where doctors like Hippocrates prescribed it as a diuretic, Rome, where it was considered an extremely refreshing drink, or Israel, where it was they found texts on tithing that explained that farmers did not have to stack them, but rather store them individually, which suggests that they were already growing modern watermelons’, that is, water melons with fragile skins.
Another interesting point is that a treatise written in Hebrew was found around 200 AD. C. in which tithe watermelons were placed in the same category as figs, grapes, and pomegranates. Why? Because they are all sweet. Indeed: watermelon cultivation had evolved to such an extent that farmers had been able to turn an apparently unappetizing fruit into one of the most appreciated and loved foods by everyone , and not just by those who lived in deserts.
It is certain that by that time the watermelon was already in the orchard of the entire Mediterranean region. But there was still a little way to go.
Improving its flavor… even more
The common watermelon is the red one, but did you know that there are also yellow-fleshed watermelons? By 424 AD C., they already existed. This has a simple explanation, and it is as follows: the red color gene is paired with the one that determines the sugar content; thus, as its flavor sweetened, the color also changed , becoming more and more yellow.
We like watermelon. We grow it in our gardens, and we enjoy its flavor and texture. Today, after 5,000 years of selective breeding, we have managed to obtain an exquisite fruit.