Watermelons, The Thirst Quenchers of Summer Time Galore

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Watermelon is known to be a favorite summer treat, as well as one of the ultimate favorite picnic treats. If you have ever tasted a watermelon, it is probably no surprise to you why this juicy, refreshing fruit has this name. Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, giving its flesh a juicy and thirst-quenching texture while still also subtly crunchy. As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and gourd that grow on vines on the ground. Watermelons can be round, oblong, or spherical in shape and feature thick green rinds that are often spotted or striped. Many people report, however, that they like the taste and predictable ripeness of a watermelon best if the watermelon is symmetrical in shape. Watermelons range in size from a few pounds to upward of ninety pounds. Between 600?1,200 different varieties of watermelon exist worldwide, but all of these varieties belong to the same scientific genus and species of plant, called Citrullis lanatus.












The arrival of watermelons in the city signifies the impending summer. The fruit is a popular, healthy and tasty snack during the season. And this year, the time to indulge in cool watermelons has come at least a month early, according to vendors, what with the weather getting warmer every day. Street vendors, fruit-stall owners and multi-brand retailers expect sales to rise this year because of the scorching summer weather. The two types of watermelons that are mainly sold in the city are : the dark green ‘Kiran’, a hybrid variety distinguished by its red insides and darker colour (usually grown in Andhra Pradesh); and the regular light green watermelon (grown in Shimoga and around that area).
 
Watermelon, which was once considered as one of the cheapest commodities, is slowly and steadily attaining the status of one of the precious commodities thanks to the increasing awareness and customer patronage. Major roads in City have been lined up with hundreds of watermelons, which are piled up in attractive rows, tempting the passersby to have a slice of it so as to beat the sweltering heat. A number of seasonal vendors have arrived from Shimoga and other parts along with loads of watermelon, an eternal favourite of the contemporary customers.
 
Though knowledge about the quality of the fruit is very low among customers, there are some who choose good watermelon, which is firm, hard, spot free and juicy. They usually look for deep green, dull and symmetrical ones. “When I began to sell watermelons about three years ago I had to lend my voice to attract customers, as most of them didn’t like it or didn’t know its value. Now, the moment they spot watermelon they approach us to have a slice or a cup of juice or buy the whole fruit.. The increase in awareness of the medicinal and nutritional values is the main reason for the customer support,” says Shivappa, a hawker of Shimoga, who is camped near Jeppu since three weeks for watermelon sales.
 
Health experts say that watermelon is important for optimal eye health and boosts immunity by enhancing the infection-fighting actions of white blood cells called lymphocytes. The vitamin B6 found in watermelon helps the immune system produce antibodies. Vitamin B6 helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells. Vitamin C in watermelon helps to bolster the immune system’s defenses against infections and viruses and can protect a body from harmful free radicals that can accelerate aging and conditions such as cataracts. They add that a two-cup of watermelon is a source of potassium, a mineral necessary for water balance and found inside every cell.
 
Thanks to the increasing demand, the price of watermelon has also risen from last year. One kg of watermelon is sold at Rs.15, an increase of Rs.3 than last year. The demand would go up during treacherous summer days scaling up its prices also further. It is not just the roadside vendors who have begun cashing in on the fruit, multi-brand stores like Easy-Day, Nilgiri’s, Big Bazaar and Auchan have also stocked enough watermelons to satisfy the needs of their shoppers. Manager at Easy-Day told me that they don’t over-stock the watermelons, but buy according to the customers demand, with little extra quantity stocked during weekends. With retailers such as these perceived as having a more premium product, they focus on keeping their products medium-sized and similar in appearance, with their typical customer having a small family.
 
Meanwhile, fruit-lovers don’t seem to mind the splash watermelons have made in the market. My neighbour said he looks for colour and taste when he buys watermelons. He usually travels to Central Fruit/Vegetable Market to buy them, and doesn?t mind paying more to get better quality. He generally buys one at a time, so that none of them go waste if kept them for too long.
 
Nutritionists too give the green signal to the consumption of watermelons. A city-based nutritionist whom I met at a Fruits and Vegetable exhibition said that watermelons are the best substitute for glucose in the summer due to its high content of iron and fibre, which saves the body from dehydrating. Watermelon helps beat the heat. Potassium-rich foods like watermelon help athletes to cope with muscle strain and muscle cramps,? she explained. “Eating a slice of watermelon immediately after rigorous exercise can even prevent sore muscles. Watermelon also acts as a metabolism booster. It contains an amino acid (Arginine) that promotes fat loss and increases muscle mass,? she added. But on the other hand, diabetics are advised to keep away from the fruit, due to its high sugar (fructose) content.
 
History/Health Factors of Watermelons:


Watermelons are generally believed to have originated in Africa several thousand years ago and to have traveled over time from Africa to Asia to Europe to North America. Their arrival in Asia and the Middle East is believed to date back to approximately 900?1,000 A.D., and their arrival in Europe is estimated to have occurred in 1300?1400 A.D. It was not until Europeans began to colonize North America that watermelons arrived in what is now the U.S.


On a global basis, China is by far the largest watermelon-producing country and accounts for over half of all world production. The European Union countries, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, and the United States are the next largest watermelon producers, but each produces less than 5% of the world total.


Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus , family Cucurbitaceae) is a vine-like (scrambler and trailer) flowering plant originally from southern Africa. Its fruit, which is also called watermelon, is a special kind referred to by botanists as a pepo, a berry which has a thick rind (exocarp) and fleshy center (mesocarp and endocarp). Pepos are derived from an inferior ovary, and are characteristic of the Cucurbitaceae. The watermelon fruit, loosely considered a type of melon ? although not in the genus Cucumis ? has a smooth exterior rind (green, yellow and sometimes white) and a juicy, sweet interior flesh (usually deep red to pink, but sometimes orange, yellow and even green if not ripe).


A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 92% water by weight. As with many other fruits, it is a source of vitamin C-the amino-acid citrulline was first extracted from watermelon and analyzed. Watermelons contain a significant amount of citrulline and after consumption of several kilograms, an elevated concentration is measured in the blood plasma; this could be mistaken for citrullinaemia or other urea cycle disorders.


Watermelon rinds, usually a light green or white color, are also edible and contain many hidden nutrients, but most people avoid eating them due to their unappealing flavor. They are sometimes used as a vegetable In China, they are stir-fried, stewed or more often pickled. When stir-fried, the skin and fruit is removed, and the rind is cooked with olive oil, garlic, chilli, peppers, scallions, sugar and rum. Pickled watermelon rind is also commonly consumed in the Southern US Watermelon juice can be made into wine.


Watermelon is mildly diuretic and contains large amounts of beta carotene. Watermelon with red flesh is a significant source of lycopen.  Preliminary research indicates the consumption of watermelon may have antihypertensive effects. A study from Purdue University and University of Kentucky, USA showed that mice fed a diet including watermelon juice had lower weight, cholesterol and arterial plaque than a control group. The findings, reported in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, suggest that citrulline, a compound found in watermelon, plays a role in cardiovascular health.


What Does Watermelon Contain?


About eighty-eight percent of watermelon is, as you can probably guess by both its taste and name, water. The other twelve percent of watermelon consists of fiber. Of course, both sugar and vitamins can also be found in watermelon as well. Since it is mainly made up of water and fiber, however, this means that you will not be likely to gain any weight when you decide to eat watermelon. It is a lot healthier than many other things which you could be snacking on. You can eat watermelon as a free fruit, meaning you can eat as much of it as you would like. Watermelon is not only free of fat, but it is also free of cholesterol and low in sodium as well.


What Health Benefits Does Watermelon Offer?


Watermelon has various health benefits to offer you. One of the main health benefits of it is the fact that it does consist of about twelve percent fiber. Fiber in itself can provide many health benefits. It works as a weight loss aid, helps lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels, and may even work to prevent your risk of developing colon cancer in the future. Fiber can do a whole lot for your body. The water that is found in watermelon can also help you keep your body well hydrated during the hot days of summer, which is important. The fact that watermelon can quench your thirst on a hot day in summer is the main reason that many find it to be so satisfying. Watermelon offers various other health benefits as well. Some of these include the fact that it is packed with essential vitamins, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin A.


Is The Sugar Watermelon Contains Bad For You?


One of the main reasons that many people are afraid to eat watermelon is because it does contain sugar and they are afraid that it is bad for you. The most important thing that you should keep in mind is that too much sugar is not good for you. At the same time, anything that is eaten in moderation is okay. Chances are that you are not going to sit down and eat an entire watermelon is one sitting. Eating a few slices of watermelon here and there will provide you with the healthy benefits it has to offer and should quench your hunger for the delicious treat. Even though watermelon does have sugar, you should keep in mind that this type of watermelon is the natural type of sugar. It is not artificial sugar, so therefore the sugar found in watermelon is healthier than the sugar found in a candy bar. Overall, you will probably find that the sugar found in watermelon will not hurt you, unless you eat is excessively.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois


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