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California Homestead: Watermelon – A Brief History, Harvesting & Juice Recipe

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In this post we share a brief history of watermelons, photos of homegrown watermelons being harvested, and a recipe for fresh watermelon juice.

A brief history of watermelon around the world

The history of watermelons trace key developments in history. Today there are 1,200 varieties of watermelon grown in nearly 100 countries around the world.

Watermelons are thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert some 5,000 years ago. The first known cultivation was in Egypt, where locals would “place the watermelons in burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife” (Welter, 2004).

The fruit eaten thousands of years ago is dissimilar to the kind we enjoy today. The original taste of the fruit was “hard-textured, pale-coloured and bland or bitter” (Bot, 2015). This did not deter people from eating it; in fact, watermelon was prized due to its high water and sugar content – 91% and 6% respectively.

In the 10th century, the Moors introduced watermelon to Spain and Portugal. By the 13th century, watermelon was ubiquitous in Europe due to merchant traders bringing it with them on their ships. But watermelon did not take off as a crop in the region until the 17th century, and today most growth happens in resident gardens.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic two separate groups introduced watermelons to the Americas in the 16th century: American colonizers from Europe and those involved in the African slave trade. The first watermelons were grown in Florida and expanded into Massachusetts, Peru, Brazil, Panama and many British and Dutch colonies during the 1700s. Today Florida, Georgia, California, Texas are the biggest producers of the fruit in the United States.

It was China that developed the world’s largest affinity for growing watermelon. Today the country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of watermelon “with about 2 million hectares of watermelons and annual production worth more than 2 trillion yuan (about $290 million)” (, 2019).

Unique use of watermelon

Russia is also a large producer and consumer of watermelon. Astrakhan, located roughly 800 kilometers south of Moscow, is the main region that produces watermelon. Russia produces a local wine made from watermelon, and its enthusiasm for the fruit extends to its display of the fruit:

In Japan, farmers grow a special inedible square watermelon:

Growing watermelon

Puppy trying his first watermelon (and trampling wisteria and agapanthus in the process). Spoiler alert: he ate the whole thing.

The aftermath

Cutting the watermelon

Watermelon juice recipe

  • Half the watermelon and scoop out the pulp into a blender. There is no need to remove seeds as they will be strained out later.
  • Blend until the pulp is smooth.
  • Taste the liquid. If you love it, proceed to the next step. If the flavor is not quite there, squeeze in a small lime and blend once more.
  • Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher.
  • Serve and enjoy!

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