Monday, 22 June 2009

In the bag: watermelon

I've got watermelon in mind, thanks to Julia over at A Slice of Cherry Pie, who's hosting this month's In the bag seasonal food challenge.
This month's ingredients are watermelon and mint - and my first thoughts were a salad with melon, feta and mint...but I thought I'd do some research first.
Apparently the first record of watermelons being cultivated dates back to 2000BC, when they were being cultivated in the Nile Valley. There were watermelon seeds in the tomb of King Tut. The melons then crop up in China in 1000AD, and in 1300 the Moors brought seed to Europe.
I've always associated watermelons with African Americans, but it seems that Native Americans were growing them from the 1500s. Here's a 19th century painting by Grace Hudson of a Native American child with said melon.
Watermelons are a huge crop in the United States - the top growers are Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. The Texas town of Luling has the highest watermelon water tower in the US.
The US's Watermelon Promotion Board has some great recipe ideas. Watermelons made a fateful appearance in the election of Barack Obama: a mayor in southern California sent out an email depicting the White House surrounded by a field of watermelons. Charged with racism - because of the watermelon's association with slavery - the mayor then claimed he had no idea of the connection. So not only racist but stupid too.
There's some lovely watermelon art around: this painting is by Seth Weaver. And watch out for the art of watermelon carving...
Self-help author Wally Amos has written Watermelon Magic: Seeds of Wisdom, Slices of Life, and sports wonderful watermelon attire.
Here in the UK, our biggest importer sources his watermelons from Spain, Greece, Morocco and Cyprus, and I've seen them in all the Turkish shops nearby. But I wish we had some of the US varieties. Of all the ones I've seen, the most beautiful is a variety called Moon and Stars, after the fabulous splotching in the rind.
All of which is displacement activity for actually coming up with a recipe...but just look what the Japanese have done to their watermelons...

1 comment:

mangocheeks said...

I was looking at Julia's blog earlier and thought she had missed out your entry, but I guess you didn't get round to it. This information is fantastic though.