Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Wonderful Watermelon

by Susan Littlefield

It's almost too good to be true -- a crop that is not only one of the most healthful and nutritious, but tastes divine as well! But that's watermelon -- juicy, sweet, delicious, and packed with vitamins and other nutrients. Just one serving of watermelon fortifies you with about a third of your daily requirements for Vitamins A and C, along with potassium and lycopene, an antioxidant that may help with the prevention of some some cancers. And you'll be in good company when you bite into your homegrown watermelon. According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelons are the most consumed melon in the U.S., followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.

Where Did the Seeds Go?

For many of us, watermelon seed spitting contests may have been a traditional summer activity. But there's no doubt that seedless watermelons are easier to eat, and they have grown in popularity since they were first introduced about 50 years ago. And here's an interesting fact -- seedless watermelons have the highest levels of that healthful lycopene!

How are seedless watermelon varieties produced? These hybrids are the result of traditional breeding techniques, which involve crossing a plant with the standard two sets of chromosomes with one containing four sets. This produces a sterile hybrid that doesn't set viable seeds (although you may find a few small, white, undeveloped seeds that can be eaten along with the rest of the melon).

Seedless melons require some extra TLC to thrive. The seeds need very warm soil to germinate well and are best started indoors in peat pots and transplanted, rather than being seeded directly in the garden. Seedless hybrids also don't produce enough viable pollen to assure good fruit set, so one plant of a seeded pollinator variety should be interplanted for every two seedless ones in a home garden.

Try Our Specialty

Watermelons are our specialty! Big and small, seeded and seedless, with pink, orange, or yellow flesh, we have lots of great varieties for you to try. Here is just a sampling:

'Big Stripe' (85 days)—This hybrid produces large, oblong melons that average 30 pounds, with sweet red flesh.

'Festival' (85 days) —The beautiful dark green striped rind of this hybrid is tough so it ships well.

'Pronto' (80 days) —Ready in just 80 days from planting, this hybrid sets a tremendous amount of 20-24 pound, red-fleshed fruits.

'Allsweet' (90 days) —This open-pollinated variety produces long, striped melons that weigh 25-30 pounds and keep well.

'Sunny' (85 days)—This seedless melon produces oval, 16-20 pound fruits with beautiful yellow-gold flesh and a very sweet taste.

'Desert King' (85 days) —This unique melon has a light green rind and sweet, deep yellow flesh. It can stay on the vine for a month or more after ripening and still maintain its quality.

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