Stories tagged watermelon

May
18
2011

Boom!
Boom!Courtesy sfllaw
Word on the street is that the world may be ending on Saturday. Unfortunately, I’m not sure exactly when—I’m not keyed into the ins and outs of religious fear mongering enough to make an exact calculation—so I can’t tell you if you should cancel your lunch date, or if you’ve got until midnight to continue doing whatever it is you do. Jigsaw puzzles? Hard drugs? Far be it from me to judge.

And, you know, normally I’d dismiss this as an organization’s or individual’s effort to gain attention through a frightening claim that has no basis in reality, but … watermelons are freaking exploding in China!

Whatever holy scripture this May 21st thing was extrapolated from, I guarantee there’s a passage in there along the lines of, “And in the east, melons shall burst on the vine. Their shells will rupture, and tiny seeds shall fly forth. Juice will be everywhere.” I mean, it would fit, right? This is the sort of thing that always happens before the end of the world! How am I going to explain this to my cat?!

Now, some folks—I’ll call them unbelievers—insist that the exploding melons actually aren’t bursting from anxiety over the imminent end of everything they care about. Instead, they say that they’re bursting because of a lazy farming technique, where a chemical called forchlorfenuron has been over applied. Forchlorfer… whatever, causes increased cell division in fruit, and is sprayed on watermelons and their ilk to get bigger, faster growing fruit. The resulting watermelons can be oddly shaped, and don’t taste all that great, but they’re supposed to be harmless to humans. And, apparently, they can explode.

Now, generally we keep an open mind regarding fertilizers and high-yield farming techniques around here, but this is a good example of the hazards of wily-nily application of chemicals to farms. (Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this isn’t a symptom of the apocalypse.) If there’s no significant nutritional gain, it seems kind of crazy. And if this chemical is causing explosion in the crop it’s supposed to help, it makes one wonder what its effect will be when it’s absorbed in the soil or washed off the fields (and into other vegetation). And there’s the question of whether farmers should be allowed to do this. And what the market conditions are that make them want to/need to use chemicals like forchlorfenuron. And if there’s a benefit to using it in any situations.

But that’s all probably very complicated, and should only be considered by people who don’t believe that the world is on its way out. Me? I’m not even going to brush my teeth before Saturday.

Jul
17
2008

Mmmm, mmmm good: Is there anything better than a summer day and a slice of watermelon? I'll take my watermelon with seeds or without; I'm not picky.
Mmmm, mmmm good: Is there anything better than a summer day and a slice of watermelon? I'll take my watermelon with seeds or without; I'm not picky.Courtesy foreversouls
Remember the good old days of summer when you could chomp on a slice of watermelon and spit out the seeds? Those Tom Sawyer moments are getting far and few between with the growing popularity of seedless watermelon. In fact, when you go to the store, it’s hard to find a watermelon these days with the conventional hard, black seeds.

How can a watermelon grow without seeds?

Seedless watermelons have been around for more than 50 years. And while they’re called “seedless,” they actually do have small white seeds in them. What they don’t have are the large, hard black seeds that no one wants to swallow. So how do they grow? It all boils down to the chromosome level. Chromosomes are the genetic building blocks in all living things that give them their physical traits.

Watermelon breeders have discovered that if you cross breed a watermelon with two sets of chromosomes with one that has four sets of chromosomes, you end up with a melon with three sets of chromosomes. That’s called a triploid seed, and when planted, it produces a watermelon that produces small seeds that won’t reproduce. It’s the plant world equivalent of a crossing a horse and a donkey to get a non-reproducing mule. Here's a link to an NPR report about how seedless watermelons, and other seedless fruits, are developed.

While consumers have expressed their strong preference for seedless watermelons, that hasn’t put the seeded varieties out to pasture, so to speak. Seeded watermelons still play a crucial role in the production of seedless watermelons.

Along with the crossbreeding work that’s needed to create seedless watermelon seeds, seeded watermelons need to be planted among seedless watermelons for their fruit to develop properly. A field producing seedless melons will have around 25 percent of its plants being seeded melons to help in the pollination process. Bees cross pollinate between the two plants. Without that cross pollination, the inner fruit of the watermelon will not develop.

And no one would want that, now, would we?

The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported ice-cold watermelon is less nutritious than watermelon served at room temperature. Chilled watermelons lose nutrients (ex. lycopene and beta-carotene) more readily when compared to watermelon kept at room temperature.