Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. From there, watermelons spread throughout countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships. By the 10th century, watermelon found its way to China, which is now the world’s number one producer of watermelons. The 13th century found watermelon spread through the rest of Europe via the Moors. Southern food historian, John Egerton, believes watermelon made its way to the United States with African slaves as he states in his book, “Southern Food.”
Health & Nutrition
Nutritionists have long appreciated the health benefits watermelon provides. Watermelon not only boosts your “health esteem,” but it is has excellent levels of vitamins A and C and a good level of vitamin B6.
- Vitamin A found in watermelon is important for optimal eye health and boosts immunity by enhancing the infection-fighting actions of white blood cells called lymphocytes.
- Vitamin B6 found in watermelon helps the immune system produce antibodies. Antibodies are needed to fight many diseases. Vitamin B6 helps maintain normal nerve function and form red blood cells. The body uses it to help break down proteins. The more protein you eat, the more vitamin B6 you need.
- Vitamin C in watermelon can help to bolster the immune system’s defenses against infections and viruses and can protect a body from harmful free radicals that can accelerate aging and conditions such as cataracts.
A two-cup serving of watermelon is also a source of potassium*, a mineral necessary for water balance and found inside of every cell. People with low potassium levels can experience muscle cramps.
*A two-cup serving has less than 10 percent of the daily reference value for potassium.