Happy National Watermelon Day!

Aug. 3 is National Watermelon Day, so if you are looking for a good excuse for a summer celebration, this is it!

Watermelon is a delicious and versatile fruit…or is it a vegetable? Read on to find out and learn some fun facts about America’s favorite red-and-green snack:

Watermelon has a long, interesting history.

The watermelon’s origins trace back to the deserts of southern Africa, where it still grows wild. In ancient buildings, the watermelon is depicted in hieroglyphics. Watermelons were placed in the burial tombs of kings as a way to ensure they would stay nourished in the afterlife. They made their way to China by way of merchant ships in the 10th century and to Europe in the 13th century.

The U.S. ranks sixth in worldwide production of watermelon.

Florida, Texas, California, Georgia, and Indiana are the states that grow the most watermelon. Who knew?

Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

Yes, seriously!

To grow watermelons, you need sun, bees, and water.

Farmers grow watermelons in rows and in raised beds of well-drained, sandy soils. Honeybees must pollinate every watermelon blossom to create fruit. A vine might spread up to 8 feet in a month. Within 60 days, the vine produces its first watermelons. The crop is ready to harvest in three months.

Watermelons are 100 percent edible.

Though the average person only eats the flesh of the watermelon, you can absolutely eat the rind as well. Some use the rind to make watermelon rind pickles, while others dice it up and throw it in stir fry or stew.

What’s the best season for watermelon? Any season.

Watermelon is grown in warm places and available throughout the year. Its peak production season in many U.S. states is May to August, but places like Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama have a peak watermelon season of January to April.

Watermelon is good for you.

Watermelon is 92 percent water and an excellent source of vitamins A and C. It also contains vitamin B6, potassium, and lycopene, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.

On a budget? You’ve picked the right fruit.

Watermelon ranked on the Perishables Group’s 2010 study as No. 1 on the list of budget-friendly fruits at only 14 cents per serving. You can feed up to three dozen people from just one watermelon. Can you say party food?

Watermelon is a fruit…and a vegetable.

Weird but true—watermelon meets the criteria for both. Watermelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae plant family of gourds (think cucumber, squash, and pumpkin). It’s planted from seeds, harvested, and picked—grown as a vegetable crop. Watermelon is also the fruit of a plant, grown on vines. Because it is a type of melon, it is considered a fruit. So, which is it: a fruit or a vegetable? Both!

This summer, get your family and friends together and toast the watermelon! Thanks to the National Watermelon Promotion Board for all the tasty and interesting facts.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michaele Charles is the founder of Voice Communications and writes frequently for higher education institutions, small businesses, corporate clients, and others. She also is a fledgling children’s writer. In her pre-writing life, she worked in accounting and finance.