The fruit of the ‘fourth’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Features Editor

Any Fourth of July celebration worth its salt has its share of watermelons.

Watermelons and the Fourth of July go together just like candy canes and Christmas, chocolate bunnies and Easter and turkey and dressing and Thanksgiving.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

You just can’t have one without the other.

We, in the South, take great pride in claiming the watermelon as our own.

We have a history as raiders of the watermelon patch.

As cotton pickers, we found delight in finding a watermelon hidden among the cotton stalks, smashing it and eating it by the fistful right there under the shade of the tall cotton plants.

What kid hasn’t made a boat from the rind and sailed it down the river or around the pond? And, what Southerner hasn’t had the juice from the watermelon trickle down and tickle his or her

arm while eating a rasher down to the rind?

So, the watermelon must be the regional fruit of the South, right?


The watermelon is actually grown in more than 96 counties and it is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa.

The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred about 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on the walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in their afterlife. (What a way to go!)

But, no matter their origin or where they are grow,

no matter how many entombed kings are being nourished by them, we in the South can still boast of watermelon superiority. After all the "Watermelon Capital of the World"

is in the deep South.

Cordele, Ga. lays claim to that title and the Cordele State Farmers’ Market is a major supplier of the Fourth of July fruit.

And, every town in the South can boast of at least one watermelon patch and the roadways are dotted with roadside stands and pickup trucks selling the fruit of the Fourth. And, a

watermelon all but guarantees a Grand Ol’ Fourth.


the National Watermelon Promotion Board has released some some facts about watermelons that might add more fun to your Fourth as folks gather around for the cutting of the watermelon and the host impresses them with this bit of watermelon trivia:


The United States currently ranks fourth in worldwide production of watermelon. Fourty-four states grow watermelons with Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona consistently leading the country in production.


Watermelon’s official name is Citrullus lanatus and is related to cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.


Watermelon is 92 percent water.


By weight, watermelon is the most-consumed melon in the United States, followed by cantaloupe and honeydew.


Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.


The first cookbook published in the United States, in 1796, contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.


Food historian John Martin Taylor said early Greek settlers brought the method of picking watermelon with them to Charleston, S.C.


A watermelon was once thrown at Roman Governor Demosthenes, during a political debate. Placing the watermelon upon his head, he thanked the thrower for providing him with a helmet to wear as he fought the Philip of Macedonia.


In 1990, Bill Carson of Arrington, Tenn. grew the largest watermelon at 262 pounds. According to the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records Carson still held the record.


In 1999 more than four billion pounds of watermelon were produced in the United States.


Watermelon is an ideal health food because it doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber and vitamins A and C and is a good source of potassium.


Contrary to popular belief, eating watermelon seeds does not cause a watermelon to grow in your stomach. In some cultures, it is popular to bake the seeds and eat them.


In China and Japan watermelon is a popular gift to bring a host.


In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese (Southerners use plain ol’ table salt).