3 Wonderfully simple ways to pick a good watermelon!
The ideal place to buy a good watermelon is at a farmer’s market. That’s because the farmers there know their business and can help you pick a watermelon they are proud of.
If you don’t have access to a farmer’s market, you can still pick up a delicious watermelon with these hints:
- First, pick up your selected watermelon. It should seem heavy for its size.
- Next, turn it over and give it a good, “thwack” on its “backside.” It should have a nice resonant hollow sound. That means it’s full of juice.
- Then, look at the bottom yellowish area where it has been resting on the ground, if it’s a light yellow, this indicates that it is ripe. If the underside is still white, it’s not ripe yet. If it’s green, that’s a tipoff that the melon was picked early with the hope that it would ripen off the vine… and that’s not ideal.
Seedless Watermelons? Whacked out genetics!
I wanted to grow some volunteer watermelons in my garden next year so I was looking for a watermelon with seeds. The only place I found one was at a farmer’s stand down the road. It was raised from seed in a local guy’s patch.
What happened to the seeds in watermelons and how in the world do “seedless” watermelons reproduce?
Well, this involves some basic cellular biology:
- Watermelons are genetic diploids, which means, like humans, they have two sets of chromosomes.
- Seedless watermelons have been bred to be triploids, that is they have three set of chromosomes. This renders them unable to reproduce.
- But how on earth do they breed to get watermelons with three sets of chromosomes?
- Well, they mate a diploid male with a tetraploid female (watermelon with four sets of chromosomes-a nice even number).
- To get a tetraploid watermelon, you take a normal diploid melon and add a chemical to it just as the cells are dividing. If this chemical is added to diploid seedlings, in every generation there will be some cells that will be tetraploid. It takes many generations of manipulating these cells to result in all seedlings producing seedless watermelons!
So, what role does pollination play?
Watermelon plants have both male and female flowers. The female flowers have a tiny melon behind them. The male flowers are removed on the tetraploid plants because only the female tetraploid flowers produce fruit. Pollination must be done by hand or with bees.
So, now that you know about the lengths to which farmers and biologists have gone to engineer seedless watermelons, do you think it’s worth the effort?
I think there just might be something missing if there were no more fertile watermelon seeds to go straight from the fruit and into my garden.
Whacky, wonderful varieties!
Are there any other varieties of watermelon besides seeded and seedless?
Watermelons come in about 1200 varieties. They are classified into four groups: seeded, seedless, icebox (or mini/personal size), and yellow/orange. The Crimson Sweet is a popular seeded variety with deep red sweet flesh. There are also the unusual varieties like the Golden Midget, whose rind turns yellow as it ripens. There is a melon called the Cream of Saskatchewan, whose flesh is a creamy white color.
Now you know how to pick a good watermelon, the story behind the seedless craze, and some other varieties that you may consider growing in your garden next summer.
If you are a diehard watermelon lover like me, you’re probably fantasizing about all those whacky varieties right about now!