Watermelon, an all time favorite fruit for meals and snacks is actually a "vegetable". The origin of watermelon can be traced back to early Egyptian civilization, which is still evident in the hieroglyphics on the wall paintings. The fruit was held in high regard and often placed on the tombs of many kings and pharaohs. Watermelon has played the role of a thirst quenching fruit in countries in the Mediterranean region due to the scarcity of water in those areas. The African slaves brought watermelon seeds to the western countries and eventually United States has turned out to be one of the leading commercial growers of watermelon. Recent researches show that watermelon is one of the major cucurbit crops in the world accounting for around 7% of world area devoted for vegetable crops.
Watermelons are available throughout the year and are grown for their fleshy, juicy and sweet fruit. Its natural sweetness makes it a delicious and refreshing dessert especially in hot climate. Watermelons are perfect addition to a salad, salsa or a cool drink. Today there are numerous varieties of watermelon with red, pink, orange or yellow flesh. Watermelon consists of more than 91% of water and nearly 8% sugar.
The sweet and juicy watermelon has lots of nutritional benefits:
- It is fat free.
- It has very low sodium content.
- It is Cholesterol free.
- It is a good source of Vitamins A & C
- It is high in Lycopene content
Recent study on watermelons has revealed that it has numerous health benefits. The red variety of watermelon contains high concentrations of Lycopene, an anti-oxidant that helps to reduce the risk of many diseases. Watermelon contains Lycopene and beta-carotene - these are plant compounds classified as Carotenoids, which are highly colored pigments that help protect plants against damage from sunlight. These antioxidants neutralize the harmful free radicals in the human body. Free radicals in the human body cause great deal of damage by oxidizing cholesterol and making it stick to the blood vessel walls, eventually leading to heart attack or stroke. Lycopene in watermelons get rid of these thereby reducing the risk of other fatal diseases such as asthma attacks, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer and other heart diseases.
The American Heart Association has certified watermelon to be one of the constituents of a sensible low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet. Watermelon is grown in many nations and is highly priced in a few. Watermelon is often given as a precious gift in Japan where they call it, Suika. The Japanese wrap it beautifully in a protective covering or cellophane and present it. All parts of watermelon are edible. The rind is used for making sweet pickles and the seeds can be baked and salted.
Watermelon juice, known as Agua Fresca in Mexican is a delicacy in the country. With more than 50 varieties of watermelon there are varieties of watermelon juices in the market some of which even comes as a perfect blend with other additives.