Have Watermelons Always Been Sweet?

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.

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More Info: National Geographic

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