Watermelon: Fruit, Vegetable, Food of Angels

You might say the watermelon is refreshingly bipartisan when it comes to the politics of fruit versus vegetable. As a member of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family, and thus a relative of pumpkins, zucchinis, and cucumbers, it seems these green, water-filled globes are firmly rooted on the vegetable side. But through the lens of the botanist, watermelons (and the Cucurbitaceae family in general) are very specifically a particular type of berry called a pepo, and thus a fruit. Right now you are probably thinking, “That is one BIG berry.” And you are right – a watermelon is a big, juicy berry that is composed of over 90% water!

Watermelons are flowering, annual vines with a genetic lineage originating out of southern Africa. At some point, humans began cultivating the fruit and spreading it around the globe. Seeds were found in the tomb of King Tut (who ruled Egypt in 1332-1323 BC), and evidence of cultivation in India dates back to the 7th century. Centuries later, we find ourselves with more than 1,200 watermelon cultivars: seeded or seedless; red, orange, yellow, or white; thick or thin rind; striped, spotted, or solid rind; small or large; round or oblong. All those varieties must mean we really like watermelons, and we like them a lot of different ways.

Due to the natural sugar content of the watermelon, it is most often used like a fruit and makes seasonal debuts at barbecues in large slices or mixed into fruit salads. Keep it sweet and cool with a Watermelon-Strawberry Lime Cooler or Watermelon, Lime, Ginger Pops. Its natural sweetness also pairs well with salty or savory ingredients in recipes like Watermelon Feta Appetizers, Summer Melon Salad with Mint and Prosciutto, or Mojito Watermelon Salad. And you can take it all the way to the other side (the culinary vegetable side) and make up a batch of Watermelon Rind Pickles, a southern classic, or try a Watermelon Rind Curry.

The good news about watermelon politics: you don’t have to choose – you can enjoy your watermelon any way you want. Fresh, organic watermelons are currently in season and available at your co-op.

"When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat."
- Mark Twain