Photo and article by Donna Iverson
Last summer, a vendor was selling slices of watermelon at the Muskegon Farmers Market. I almost always sprung for one because a full size watermelon was too heavy for me to carry.
But this fall, several market vendors are selling personal-sized round watermelons that weigh about 5 pounds. I’m hooked and they are delicious.
Earlier in the summer, the round watermelons were yellow inside, almost like a large cantaloupe. By August, red flesh ones appeared, and like the yellow ones, they were seedless. Well not really seedless, they contained small white seeds that were edible and hardly noticeable.
I was intrigued. Were these a new variety of watermelon?? And why had they suddenly become popular?
Turns out, they haven’t suddenly become popular but have been growing in popularity for the last 15 years. My guess is that they fill a need as they are easier to carry and can be consumed by one or two persons at a meal.
The trend in watermelons is definitely toward a smaller and smaller size. These small round watermelons are called icebox watermelons and can weigh between 5 and 15 pounds. They fit in your refrigerator and are perfect for a small family.
Locally, I’m also seeing more and more small round watermelons growing in neighbors’ gardens. According to growers, they are not that difficult to grow nor does it take a huge garden space.
Their best advice is to grow round watermelon from seed and I would recommend an heirloom variety. The basic requirements for growing include warm soil, three months of hot sunny weather, and frequent watering and feeding. More details on growing, watermelon, their pests and harvesting can be found at tropicalpermaculture.com
As for the history of the watermelon, amazingly it goes back 5000 years to Africa. There, watermelon grew in the wild, and was originally round. Egyptians breed these wild fruits to increase their sweetness, eventually turning the pale yellow insides to bright red. The redder the melon, the sweeter the taste. They also favored the oblong shape.
Interesting watermelon facts: