There are many foods that immediately bring the summer season to mind. Some folks think of Hot Dogs, others lemonade, still others thing of barbecue. For me, the one food that states emphatically “summertime!” is none other than the lovely watermelon.
Native to Africa, probably in the southern region, it has been said that it has been cultivated as a food as far back as 2000 BCE. It is believed that the watermelon was literally used as a water source for long journeys through areas that had less than an adequate supply of H20. So ubiquitous was the melon that the Egyptians included the watermelon on wall paintings.
The melon traveled east via the trade routes, to India and China, before making inroads to Europe. The Romans and Greeks did not cotton to it until well into the Christian era, and it likely gained its true popularity when the Moors invaded the Southern Mediterranean regions, such as Sicily and Spain.
North America received the melon, not through Europe, but from Africa via South American slaves. There is evidence of watermelons being grown in what is now Florida as far back as the 1660′s.
Much like a majority of domesticated crops, the watermelon has seen a variety of new cultivars created via breeding. Thicker rinds, to allow for longer shelf lives, sweeter flesh, which removed a fair amount of the bitterness for which many of the melons were known, even seedless varieties are now all available.
I’m going to try to see how much information I can provide on the watermelon over the next few weeks, and provide a few recipes as well.