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National Watermelon Day

Popular during the summer, especially at cookouts and picnics, watermelon is celebrated today with National Watermelon Day. There are over 1,200 varieties of watermelon. In the Western Hemisphere, it is grown in the United States, Mexico, Central America—particularly in Guatemala and Costa Rica—and South America. More than 30 states in the United States grow watermelon, the leading ones being Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, and Indiana. Watermelon is available year-round in the United States because of supply from south of the border.

Watermelon is usually considered to be a fruit and eaten as one, but it can also be considered to be a vegetable and eaten as such. Its scientific name is citrullus lanatus, and it is a member of the cucurbitaceae gourd family along with cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and some melons. Red and pink watermelon may be the most common, but it can also be white, yellow, and orange. It comes in various sizes, with or without seeds. Seedless watermelon, invented in the twentieth century, has few or no mature, black seeds. Seedless watermelon may appear to have white seeds, but these are not seeds, just empty seed coats where seeds didn't develop.

The first watermelons were harvested in ancient Egypt in around 3,000 BCE. Watermelons are displayed in Egypt hieroglyphics from the time and were placed in the tombs of pharaohs to provide them nourishment for the afterlife. It wasn't until about 1615 CE that the term "watermelon" first appeared in the English dictionary.

There are numerous ways to eat watermelon. It can be eaten fresh: in slices and from the rind, or cut into cubes or balls. It's used in salads, sauces, and salsas. It can be made into juice and added to smoothies, cocktails, and other beverages. It can be used to make anything from the main course to a dessert, and it can even be grilled. Every part of a watermelon can be eaten, including the rind, which can be pickled or added to a stir fry.

Watermelons are 92% water, which makes them excellent for helping to maintain hydration. They are nutrient-dense, packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, while containing only about 40 calories a cup. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and contain other vitamins, such as A, B6, and B1, and minerals like potassium and magnesium. One of their amino acids is citrulline, and they contain more lycopene, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of cancer, than any other fruit or vegetable. They are free of fat, sodium, and cholesterol. They are a heart-healthy food and assist in weight management.

Grown best in rows that are 8 to 10 feet apart, in raised beds of well-drained sandy soils, watermelon plants must be pollinated by bees to produce fruit. The first watermelons are ready after about 60 days, and the full harvest is ready after about 90. Watermelon is handpicked by being cut from the vine and then has about a three to four-week shelf life. Cut watermelon can last in glass or plastic containers for at least 3 to 5 days. But shelf life isn't much of a concern today. It's National Watermelon Day—all of the watermelon in the fridge is sure to be eaten up!

How to Observe National Watermelon Day

Celebrate by eating watermelon! Eat a fresh slice or have it in one of the many dishes it can be used in. Have it as part of a main course, in a salad, in a salsa or sauce, or use it to prepare a beverage or dessert. You could make something with the rind too! You could plant watermelon, or if you already have some on hand, you could carve them into all kinds of designs. You could also make plans to attend a watermelon festival or to visit the China Watermelon Museum.

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