If you thought iceberg lettuce was the quintessential outdoor summer food in Australia, watermelon must be a close second. Slopping the cold juice from a piece that’s too big for your mouth is part of the fun and amazing refreshment. What’s more, its one of those ‘red’ fruits that contain lycopene, from the same paintbox that tomatoes come from, recognised for their help with immune systems and possibly even reducing the risk of cancer.
Is it a fruit or a vegetable? If you thought vegetable, you are correct. It is a cucurbit in the same family as a pumpkin, squash and cucumbers. But no one really cares much whether it’s a vegetable or fruit.
Watermelons in summer can be found on the back of a truck on the side of a road, and tonnes of them, as they are one of the most prolific of the summer fruits. The long variety, or one that looks somewhat cylindrical, is the usual suspect.
Others are round but have little difference to the larger variety, except they are more manageable to cart around.
Then there are those that would have been round but are grown square in Japan. A bolted cage is placed around the melon before it gets too big and the confinement of the frame creates a square melon. Somewhat of an oddity, these square melons are highly popular in Japan.
China produces half the world’s melons and Australia grows honeydew, rockmelon and the larger variety of watermelon in much lesser numbers.
Watermelons should have a smooth, striped green and white skin and have pinkish to red flesh. A watermelon is about 92 per cent water, which explains its quenching abilities. Grow them from seed in a container then plant (they don’t like being transplanted once in the ground).
They are a ground vine so give them plenty of space, average amounts of water as overwatering doesn’t help and a general fertiliser (although none is also an option), so long as you have some good soil and you can harvest in a few months. They are ripe when the bottom is cream or yellow.