Watermelon



Watermelon (Citrullus sp.), a tropical fruit, belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae. The flesh is in shades of either red or yellow, and even white. Popular for its sweet and juicy flesh, the fruit is thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt more than 5,000 years ago.

Origins and distribution
Watermelon is believed to have originated in the Kalahari region (Botswana, Namibia and South Africa) or northeastern Africa, and the fruit first cultivated in Egypt more than 5,000 years ago.1 From there it was introduced to the Mediterranean and then brought to India, probably in prehistoric times. It then went to China via India sometime between the 10th and 12th century. From China, it spread to Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and Australia. The subtropics of Japan, Taiwan and Florida provide conducive climatic conditions for the vine to grow. The fruit is classified as a vegetable in Taiwan and Thailand.2


Many related varieties of watermelons are found throughout Southeast Asia that are either local varieties of a particular region or are hybrids popularly grown there. The local varieties in Indonesia are Bajonegoro and Sangkaling and hybrids grown there are Tomato, Sugar, Cream Suika, Sugar Baby and Charleston Gray. In Malaysia, the varieties grown are Black boy, Empire No. 2, Crimson sweet, Seedless Variety, Fengshan No 1, Flower Dragon, New Dragon, Yellow Baby, Sugar baby and New Sugar Baby. Thailand varieties are similar to those of Malaysia, but the fruits there are bigger and sweeter.3 The main producers of watermelon in the world are China, Turkey, Iran, Brazil, United States of America and Egypt.4

Description
Watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons pumpkins and squashes.5 The watermelon plant is a hairy, trailing annual vine that can grow up to 6 m long. Its stems are rough and angular and its roots shallow and widespread. The large and hairy leaves are divided into rounded lobes and have a long stalk. The tendrils, leaf petioles and flowers appear around the same area on the stem. The male flowers, which bloom earlier than female flowers, are large, yellow and have an attractive corolla with stems located at its base. The male flowers grow above the female flowers, which have a large green and hairy ovary.6 Sometimes hermaphrodite flowers are also seen.7

The large watermelon fruit has red, yellow or white flesh, and is produced either with or without seeds. The outer layer or the skin is thick and smooth, and varies from light to dark green in colour, some with stripes. The edible flesh enclosed is composed of 90 percent water. Watermelons can weigh between 7 and 15 kg.8

Usage and potential
Food
Watermelons are usually eaten fresh. They can be made into fresh juice or packed into tins or boxes. Watermelon juice is believed to have cooling properties and is thus a popular drink. However, it is the seeds that have popular local use not often found in the West. The seeds of some varieties of watermelon are dried and salted to make a tasty snack known locally as kuaci .The seeds are rich in carbohydrate, fat and protein, and contain 30 percent edible oil. Seeds of different varieties of watermelon differ in their chemical composition. Some seeds contain a resin and sugar while others contain an alcohol called cucurbitol. In Africa, the oil of the seeds is used for cooking and is cheaper than groundnut oil. Cakes left after oil extraction is used as cattle feed. The Indians pound the seeds and bake them in cakes.9

Medicinal uses
In India, the kernels of the seeds are used as a diuretic, body coolant and for strengthening purposes. The juice of the roots is used to stop haemorrhage after an abortion. The Malays and the Javanese believed that it was dangerous to eat watermelon fruit with palm-sugar or honey.10

Variant names11
Common name: Watermelon.

Scientific name: Citrullus lanatus, Citrullus vulgaris
Indonesian: Semangka.
 

Malay: Tembikai, Semangka.



Author

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja



References
1. Board of Trustees of the Royal Bontaic Gardens, Kew. (n.d.). Citrullus lanatus (Watermelon). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from Kew Royal Botanic Gardens website: http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/citrullus-lanatus-watermelon
2. Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 567. (Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR); Watermelon. (1993). Asian Pacific Panorama, 2, 222–225. (Call no.: RCLOS 950 APP); Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in south-east Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 214. (Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH)
3. Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in south-east Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 216. (Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH)
4. Khan, I. S. (2015, July 6). Top 10 largest watermelon producing countries in the world. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from World Knowing website: http://worldknowing.com/top-10-largest-watermelon-producing-countries-in-the-world/
5. Board of Trustees of the Royal Bontaic Gardens, Kew. (n.d.). Citrullus lanatus (Watermelon). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from Kew Royal Botanic Gardens website: http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/citrullus-lanatus-watermelon
6. Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in south-east Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 215. (Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH)
7. International Tropical Fruits Network. (n.d.). Watermelon. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from G-Fruit website: http://www.itfnet.org/gfruit/Templates%20English/watermelon.intro.htm
8. Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in south-east Asia . New York: Oxford University Press, p. 215. (Call no.: R 634.0959 OTH); International Tropical Fruits Network. (n.d.). Watermelon. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from G-Fruit website: http://www.itfnet.org/gfruit/Templates%20English/watermelon.intro.htm
9. Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Published on behalf of the governments of the Malaysia and Singapore by the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, pp. 567–568, 707. (Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR); International Tropical Fruits Network. (n.d.). Watermelon. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from G-Fruit website: http://www.itfnet.org/gfruit/Templates%20English/watermelon.intro.htm
10. Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Published on behalf of the governments of the Malaysia and Singapore by the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 568. (Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR)
11. Burkill, I. H. (1966). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur:  Published on behalf of the governments of the Malaysia and Singapore by the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, pp. 567–568. (Call no.: RSING 634.909595 BUR); International Tropical Fruits Network. (n.d.). Watermelon. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from G-Fruit website: http://www.itfnet.org/gfruit/Templates%20English/watermelon.intro.htm



The information in this article is valid as at 16 April 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Tropical fruit--Southeast Asia
Plants
Watermelons--Southeast Asia
Nature>>Plants