Are you aware that this summer treat is not really a fruit? Get a few growing tips and find out the answers to other questions with this list of fun watermelon facts.
25 Watermelon Facts that Will Surprise You
A staple at all summer picnics and barbecues, the watermelon is the most popular melon consumed in the U.S. It’s time to brush up on your knowledge of this refreshing summer sweet treat with these random facts.
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Let’s get to know this plant by looking at its scientific roots:
- Botanical name: citrullus lantanus
- Botanical family: curcurbitaceae
Is watermelon a fruit?
Or is watermelon a vegetable? This is an age old question that people have been debating forever.
Answering this question is difficult. Botanically, watermelon is a fruit of a plant that originated in Southern Africa. It is generally considered a type of melon, but is not in the family cucumis.
It is a member of the family of cucurbitaceae – gourds, which are considered vegetables. It is planted from seeds, or seedlings, grown in a field and then harvested like other vegetables.
For those that swear that a watermelon is a fruit, they argue that it is used as a fruit and is commonly balled, cubed, sliced and enjoyed fresh like other fruits.
Webster’s dictionary seems to have a definitive answer. They state that a vegetable is anything made or obtained from plants, which a watermelon definitely is. It describes a vegetable this way:
Of or pertaining to plants; having the nature of, or produced by, plants; as, a vegetable nature; vegetable growths, juices, etc.
Since a watermelon is grown like a vegetable, harvested like a vegetable and uses vegetable production systems it would appear that it is, indeed, a vegetable.
And yet the debate continues – which do you think it is?
How much sun do watermelons need?
Since watermelons are originally native to Africa, they require hot and sunny conditions to do well.
All vegetables love sunlight – 6 to 8 hours a day is what you should strive to give them. Watermelons really love sunlight and will grow best with this much sunlight and more.
I’ve tried my hand at growing watermelons many times and one thing is obvious – no matter how large my watermelon patch is, the area of the patch that gets the longest sunlight produces the most and biggest watermelons. I aim for 8-9 hours of sunlight each day!
Can watermelon grow in shade?
The answer is yes, sort of. They will grow and the plants will look lush. But there is a big difference between growing and thriving.
Areas of my watermelon patch which get less sunlight, due to shade trees or buildings that cast shade produce lush vines but much fewer and smaller melons. So bring on the sun! Watermelons love it!
Should you swallow watermelon seeds?
I’m sure we have our own tale of our mothers telling us that if we swallowed watermelon seeds, a plant would grow in our belly. Is there any truth to this or is it an old wive’s tale?
Thankfully, you won’t be sprouting a whole watermelon if you eat the seeds. In actual fact, watermelon seeds are nutritious. They have high levels of protein, zinc and magnesium.
Even though you can safely swallow the seeds, it’s still a good idea to chew them first. This makes sure you get the most nutrition from the seeds!
Can you eat the whole watermelon?
When we talk about watermelons we tend to think of the juicy, moisture filled flesh, but did you know that other parts of the watermelon are also edible? In fact, you can eat ALL parts of a watermelon!
Weird Watermelon Facts
Most of my watermelon facts deal with growing, using and eating watermelon. Here are a few random fun facts.
- Early settlers used the outer skin of watermelons as canteens to carry their things to drink.
- China is the leading producer of watermelons
- There is a entire National day devoted to Watermelons – August 3, and a National Watermelon month – July.
- The Chinese bring watermelons as a hostess gift.
- The word watermelon first appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.
Do all watermelons have seeds?
It used to be the case that the average watermelon was a huge picnic variety filled with seeds. Remember those “seed spitting contests” from your childhood?
However, today, about 85% of the varieties of watermelon sold in the US are seedless. The melons do actually have seeds, but these are white, unripe seed coats and are perfectly safe to eat.
Their texture is soft and there is no need to remove them when you slice the melon, or spit them out when eating watermelon wedges.
Is the watermelon a state vegetable anywhere?
Yes, indeed. the Oklahoma State Senate declared that the watermelon is the state vegetable in 2007. Notice they didn’t call it a fruit?
Since their state fruit is a strawberry, they needed another distinction and thereby appeared to answer the question asked above – is a watermelon a fruit or a vegetable?
However, a bill was brought forward in 2015 to repeal the earlier bill on the argument that the watermelon is a fruit. The bill died in committee but shows how strongly people argue this issue!
How many servings are in one watermelon?
The answer, of course, depends on the size of the watermelon. Mini watermelons are about the size of a cantaloupe, icebox melons will easily fit into a fridge, and a picnic watermelon will feed a crowd.
As a general rule of thumb, an average 20 pound watermelon can be cut into about 66 wedges, 3/4 inch thick. This will feed 33 people, if they each eat two wedges.
One pound of watermelon is about 3 wedges or 1 1/2 servings. This means you can feed three people for every 2 pounds of melon you have.
Health Fact – Do you need to wash watermelons before serving them?
It is suggested that all fruits and vegetables be washed before serving them to be eaten. This includes watermelon.
The reason for washing a watermelon is that it is possible that there will be bacteria on the outer skin. When you use a knife to cut the melon, the knife could literally drag through the bacteria and transfer it to the flesh that you will be eating.
Check out this post for more details on washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
How long do watermelons last?
If you have grown the watermelon yourself, you will find that it will last about 3-4 weeks on the shelf.
For those purchased in the grocery store, you can’t use quite the same rule of thumb, since the travel time to get the watermelon to the store can vary. Figure on 7-10 days for a whole store-bought melon on the counter and 2-3 weeks in the fridge.
Once watermelons have been cut, they will last 3-5 days in the fridge and 1 day outside of it.
Do all watermelons have red fruit?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the traditional oblong shaped dark green watermelon with red flesh may be the most common type, but it is not the only color available.
Watermelons can also have light pink, yellow, and even green orange flesh.
Nutritional Watermelon Facts
Let’s talk about the breakdown of the plant itself. In this section we’ll learn what it’s made of, and some tips for figuring out if it is ripe.
What percent of watermelon is water?
There is a reason this vegetable is called a watermelon. It is made up of 92% water! This is what makes them the perfect treat to serve on a hot summer day, since they will hydrate you.
6% of the vegetable is sugar, which is quite low, making it low in calories. With the 92% ratio, this means that the average watermelon with about 14 pounds of flesh weighs in with about 196 ounces – or 12 cups of water!
Is watermelon healthy?
Even though the watermelon is mostly water with a bit of sugar, it is considered a healthy snack.
Watermelons are a good source of beta carotene, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A, B6 and C. They also have high levels of lycopene which may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Studies have also shown that eating watermelon may help so decrease inflammation in the body.
How to tell if watermelons are ripe?
A big watermelon sitting in the sun in your garden may look as though it’s ready to pick but how can you really tell if it is ripe? Once you harvest it and bring it indoors, it will not ripen any further, unlike some other vegetable, such as tomatoes which continue to ripen.
Fortunately, when deciding if it is ripe, the plant and melon itself will give some help in this regard. All of these things indicate that the melon is ripe:
- The tendrils on the end turn from green to brown.
- The bottom of the watermelon will be creamy white or yellow.
- There is a big contrast in the stripes on the melon.
- A “thump test” will give you a hollow sound.
For more information on telling when a watermelon is ready to pick, check out my post for harvesting watermelons. It gives lots of great ideas and photos to help with your decision.
What are the sweetest watermelons?
One of the true delights of summer is biting into a luscious, sweet wedge of watermelon. You know how disappointing it is to buy an unripe watermelon and realize it does not have much sweetness, right?
The sweetness of watermelons can even be measured by what is called a Brix scale. A Brix scale is a hydrometer scale used measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature.
Most watermelons are around 9 to 10 on the Brix scale. Very sweet watermelon measure 11 to 12 on the same scale.
Some watermelon varieties with a high Brix number and known for being sweet are:
- Yellow Crunch
- Sweet Polly
- Sugar Baby
- Cut Above
- Crimson Sweet
- Crunchy Red
What about shaped watermelons?
We tend to think of the traditional oblong or round shapes for watermelons, but there is actually a process of shaping watermelons that will result in other shapes.
For the past 40 years, in Japan, farmers have been growing cube shaped watermelons. This is done by forcing them to grow in square shaped metal boxes.
These melons sell for as much as $100 or more and are meant as novelty items and gifts, since the melons are not ripe when picked and are inedible.
In more recent years, farmers have also been growing them into the shape of hearts. If you would like to try your hand at growing the Japanese square watermelon or the heart shaped variety, molds can be purchased on Amazon:
More watermelon Facts
We have gotten the answers to so many questions and haven’t really started on how to grow them!
How many types of watermelons are there?
There are more than 50 varieties of watermelon grown world wide and hundreds more sub-types.
Watermelons are generally grouped into just four categories:
- and yellow/orange types.
However, within these groups, there is some cross over. For more detailed information on the various types of watermelons, check out my article on watermelon varieties.
What is the largest watermelon grown?
To find the answer to this question, we took a look in the Guinness Book of World Records.
It turns out that Chris Kent of Sevierville, Tennessee grew a Carolina Cross watermelon that weighed in at 350.5 pounds.
To put that into perspective, that’s about as heavy as a reindeer, 2/3 the size of a pig and twice as heavy as a beer keg!
Other large watermelon varieties are:
- Jubilee Sweet
- Florida Giant Melon
- Jumbo Black Diamond
- Blue Rind
What about carving watermelons?
The soft flesh of watermelons makes them an ideal vegetable to carve. In fact, watermelon carving is considered a highly desirable art form in Thailand.
The size of watermelons means that very large creations such as baskets, owls and swan shapes can be carved from them.
A note on carving watermelons: If you want to try your hand at this, carve the watermelon as close to the display or event date as possible.
Once you have cut into the rind of a watermelon, it needs refrigeration. Additionally, the watermelon will start to lose its structure after 24 hours which could turn your masterpiece into a “messterpiece.”
Be sure to check out my post showing some creative carved watermelon examples.
How long does it take to grow a watermelon ?
The vine of many watermelon plants will produce their first watermelons within 60 days. Depending on the variety, the crop is ready to harvest in about three months.
Times to harvest vary from 65 days to 90 days after planting. Some varieties need up to 130 sunny days to ripening!
Once the plant does set small melons, growing happens quickly. It only takes an additional 45 days for those tiny melons to become 10 pound and larger watermelons.
When is watermelon season?
Because sunlight requirements for watermelons mean that they grows best in the dog days of summer, that gives us a hint about their growing season. And since the growing time is long, it stands to reason that mid summer is when watermelons are ready to be harvested.
Watermelon season runs for several months, mainly in the summer – from May until September. The exact season in your area depends on where you live.
One way to tell is to visit your local Farmer’s Market. In the same way that strawberries are plentiful in May here at my Farmer’s Market, the watermelon season in your area is when the local farmers have plenty of them to sell!
You may wonder why you can find watermelon in the grocery stores all year long if it has a “season.” The US farmers produce their own watermelons from April through November. In the other parts of the year, watermelons are imported.
Watermelon Facts: growing tips
You need three things to grow watermelon plants: Sunlight, pollination from bees and water to give the growing plants moisture. Here are some growing tips:
- Plant in rows or mounds 8-12 feet apart to give them room to roam.
- Give watermelons lots of sunlight – 6 to 8 hours a day(or more) is ideal.
- Aluminum foil placed under the plants will help them ripen faster by attracting more sunlight.
- Healthy watermelon plants will form 2-4 melons per plant.
- Watermelons require warm soil. Don’t plant them too soon in the spring.
- Tackle weeds early since it is hard to control them once the watermelon vines start to grow.
- Avoid overhead watering
- Withhold water when harvest is near to concentrate the sugars in the flesh. Just water enough to keep the vines from wilting.
Last but not least, watermelons are for eating. Americans eat over 17 lbs of watermelon every year.
They can be used in recipes for everything from popsicles to salsa. Check out these recipes to find a new favorite.
- Chocolate watermelon popsicles
- Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade
- Cucumber watermelon salad
- Watermelon Kiwi Popsicles
- Salsa with Watermelon and Feta
- Watermelon Pizza with Cream Cheese Icing
What experiences have you had with growing watermelons? Please leave your comments below.
Pin these watermelon facts for later.
Would you like a reminder of these fun and random watermelon facts and growing tips? Just pin this image to one of your vegetable gardening boards on Pinterest.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in January of 2013. I have updated the post to add many more questions and answers about watermelon, lots of new photos and a video for you to enjoy.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."