Wild ancestors of modern sweet watermelons are still growing in the desert dry valleys of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and other countries in the region. Unlike cultivated varieties, wild plants cannot be called either sugar or large. Pale yellow or white flesh inside a 250-gram fruit or fresh or bitter.
Transformation of a watermelon
Still, wild watermelons in Africa were highly valued, because for travelers and caravans they sometimes became the only available source of moisture. It was with trade caravans that watermelons got to the Middle East, to Asia Minor and Central Asia.
Attempts to obtain larger and sweeter fruits were made in ancient Egypt, watermelons were grown in India, Persia and China. In Europe, culture became widespread not earlier than the 16th – 17th centuries, and those varieties of watermelons, as in the photo of one of the still lifes of that era, were inferior in their sweetness, juiciness and color to the fruits ripening on modern beds.
Only for the last hundred years breeders have been able to get an incredible amount of new varieties and hybrids, giving gourmets the opportunity to try the flesh of not only red or pink hues, but also yellow or almost white. Yes, and the bark of watermelons in the current beds can be not only dark green or striped, but also yellow, white, spotty or with a marble pattern.
Gardeners and farmers are offered several hundred cultivated varieties and hybrid forms that produce sweet fruits weighing from one to 90 kilograms. What are the “ C arolina Cross” varieties presented in the photo, on average, growing to 30–50 kg, but sometimes reaching a weight of almost 200 kg?
The era of Astrakhan watermelons
In Russia, watermelons have long been grown in the Ukraine, in the Kuban and in the south of the Volga region, where weather conditions made it possible to ripen large sweet fruits. In Soviet times, and until now, watermelons from Astrakhan enjoyed special respect and demand from buyers. The phrase "Astrakhan watermelon" meant that under a thin crust, there would always be revealed a scarlet, sugary flesh of inimitable sweetness and aroma.
This area was considered the main melon of the Soviet Union, and Astrakhan watermelon was the main variety on the plantation.
The first crop of oval-shaped striped fruits was obtained in 1977, at the Astrakhan Institute of Vegetable and Melon-Growing. The watermelons ripening 70–80 days after sowing turned out to be so fruitful that up to 120 tons of sugar watermelons were collected per hectare of melon, which could also be stored for up to 2.5 months and easily transported. These circumstances made Astrakhan watermelons the most popular and beloved in the country.
Volgograd watermelons from the village of Bykovo
The second place in the number of cultivated melons in Russia is Volgograd Region. Here, on the basis of the USSR’s only specialized melon-growing Bykovskaya breeding and experimental station, such famous watermelon varieties were obtained, in the photo, as Kholodok, Bykovsky 22, Triumph and more than four dozen unpretentious to the conditions of high-risk farming and very productive varieties of the beloved culture.
The Volgograd watermelon Chill of late ripening, which is easily stored until the New Year, is still considered to be a masterpiece of the selection of melons, which is easily preserved until the New Year and during this time does not lose any good taste or juiciness. For cultivation in country beds most often choose this variety.
Watermelon Crimson Sweet
If Soviet and Russian breeders followed the path of obtaining varieties of watermelons that are most resistant to all the vicissitudes of the local climate, then foreign biologists have a slightly different goal in the first place. Here, the most demanded are large-fruited, spectacular in form and color of bark and pulp, watermelons with high consumer and commercial qualities with high disease resistance. However, for the cultivation of a good harvest in this case, you will have to spend more effort and make a lot of fertilizer.
Of the foreign varieties, our summer residents are most famous for the watermelon Crimson Sweet, obtained by American breeders. The fruits of this variety do not differ in large size and on average have a mass of up to 5 kg. The variety that looks like a famous Astrakhan watermelon has a mild sweetness and gives stable yields for 65–80 days.
On the basis of the popular variety of watermelon Crimson Sweet over the past years, many varieties have been obtained, larger than the ancestor, as well as those capable of longer storage.
Sugar Babe: Watermelon Sugar Baby
Another well-known old foreign variety in Russia Sugar Baby or Sugar Baby gives round dark green fruits with red flesh after 75-80 days after planting. Watermelon Sugar Babe looks like the Spark, famous among summer residents, but somewhat larger. Sugar toddler watermelons weigh from 3 to 4.5 kg, and their flesh is distinguished by pronounced grain and sweetness.
If the Spark variety, which appeared in the USSR in 1960, became known in the West, perhaps its round fruits with dark bark without stripes would be called “black watermelon".And in Japan, Spark could compete with the most expensive watermelon in the world, Densuke, with the same rich skin color, and it is thanks to it that costs up to $ 250 apiece.
Moon and stars on watermelon skins
Obviously, on the basis of some old varieties of black watermelon in 1926 in the state of Missouri was obtained varieties with the romantic name "Moon and Stars."On the black-green bark of this watermelon and even on the foliage there are scattered bright yellow spots of various sizes, resembling night lights against the night sky.
For almost a century this sort of watermelon, as in the photo, remains popular, and today hybrids have appeared, not only with pink-red, but also with yellow pulp. It is not uncommon among the “star” fruits and elongated watermelons with a weight of 9 to 23 kg that are popular with consumers.
Another variety of fruits due to the fine grid of dark green veins on the light background of the bark is called marble watermelons. Usually these are oblong watermelons weighing from 5 to 15 kg with juicy, pink or red flesh, a small amount of seeds and excellent taste.
An example of marble watermelon is the Charleston Gray variety of French breeding, which gave rise to a whole family of crop ortes and hybrids. Russian breeders are not far behind their Western colleagues and presented to the gardeners an early ripe Honey Giant, a sort of watermelon, as in the photo, giving large fruits up to 60 cm long and weighing up to 15 kg, resisting drought and common crop diseases.
White watermelons can be sweet
If the bark of the marble watermelons has a light green tint with a subtle pattern, then the watermelon of the American Navajo Winter variety has an almost white skin.
The flesh of this white watermelon can be both pink and red, but it is always crunchy and very sweet. The variety is considered drought resistant, and the fruits are easily stored for up to 4 months.
If gardeners and gardeners have already gotten used to the multicolored peel of watermelons, the white or yellow flesh of these sweet fruits is still a wonder for Russians. But it is precisely such unusual hybrids, obtained from the crossing of cultivated varieties of watermelons and wild varieties, are at the peak of popularity and can have flesh of all shades from creamy orange, yellow to translucent white.
True, sometimes under the guise of white watermelon, trusting summer residents offer Peruvian pumpkin-shaped pumpkin, fitsyfoliyu, and in the form of foliage, and in appearance of fruits, resembling watermelon marble, but not able to compete with him for sweetness.
What does a yellow watermelon taste like?
Watermelons with yellow flesh are now offered to buyers under the name pineapple, although the similarity of these fruits is limited only by a beautiful shade of slices, and the color change does not affect the taste of yellow watermelon.
Russian breeders offer summer residents to try out pineapple watermelons collected from their own beds. Lunniy watermelons are ready to be harvested in 70–75 days from the moment of sprouting. Fruits with an attractive striped peel grow to 3.5-4 kg and have excellent taste characteristics.
The hybrid of domestic selection Prince Hamlet F1 is distinguished not only by precocity. Its main "highlight" is hidden under dense thin bark. The flesh of this pineapple watermelon weighing up to 2 kg is lemon yellow, sweet.
But the variety of watermelon, in the photo, The gift of the sun can be easily confused not with pineapple, but with melon, since the fruits of this plant have a surprisingly yellow even bark, much like the rind of another popular melon crop. This yellow watermelon, due to the accumulation of up to 12% sugar, has great taste, juicy pulp consistency and early ripening.
Today, breeding companies in the Netherlands, USA and Japan are actively working in the field of obtaining diploid hybrids, giving seedless watermelons. For several years, such fruits, completely devoid of seeds or having only their beginnings, are grown in our country.
An example of this is the hybrid of the yellow watermelon Prince Hamlet, and the oblong watermelon of the American selection Stabolit F1.