Watermelons have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years. Archaeologists found watermelon seeds at a 5,000-year-old settlement in Libya, and in Egyptian tombs built more than 4,000 years ago. But back then, the watermelon wasn’t revered for its taste; it was bitter and bland, and actually yellow or green inside. However, unlike other fruit, watermelons could remain edible for months if stored properly, and they were a vital source of water in desert climes. Ultimately, through selective breeding, watermelon growers transformed the fruit into the sweet treat we know today.
Using the old melon:
- As watermelons were bred to become even sweeter, their interiors gradually changed color. The gene for the color red is paired with the gene that determines sugar content.
- The ancient Greek name for the watermelon was pepon. Physicians like Hippocrates and Dioscorides praised its healing properties. It was prescribed as a diuretic and as a treatment for heatstroke.
- The ancient Hebrew name for watermelons was avattihim. In a tract written around 200 A.D., avattihim were placed in the same category as figs, grapes, and pomegranates. By then, it seems, watermelon had gone from desert crop to dessert.
More Info: National Geographic
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