Watermelon: an oasis in the world of fruit
Watermelon, like his little brothers cantaloupe or honey dew melon, is a cucurbit like the cucumber or squash, and has one of the longest and most fascinating histories in the evolution of fruits. It originally grew wild in savannahs south of the Sahara and around oases in southern parts of Africa, where it was no bigger than an apple and quite bitter. The Egyptians began to cultivate watermelons before other melons, making them bigger and sweeter: archeologists have found 2500-year old pictures of the fruit in Pharaonic tombs. Watermelons crossed the Mediterranean around the 1st Century where they were grown in Greece and Campania. Arab and Italian gardeners improved the fruit on both sides of the Mediterranean, giving it the size and sweetness we appreciate today. It was first eaten either salted or pickled in vinegar before becoming the refreshing and quenching summer fruit that is now consumed all over the world, both fresh and in sorbets and other desserts. Today it’s making a comeback as a sweet and sour fruit, mainly in salads and as a condiment. The watermelon wears its name well since it indeed contains 90% of water and, despite its sweet taste, contains very little sucrose (about 30 calories for 100 grammes). Rich in potassium and vitamin C, it can be consumed in large quantities and with a lot of pleasure.