Perhaps inspired by the slang term "oreo", anti-environmentalists cooked up the word "watermelon" as a derogatory slang term for environmentalists. The logic is this: environmentalists may be "green" (pro-environment) on the outside, but on the inside they are really "red" (communist). A big hit in the heartland, perhaps, but those of us who realize that the Cold War ended a long time ago just roll our eyes.

What extras in movies and TV shows are often told to pretend saying while being filmed.

Mouthing this particular polysyllable (accompanied with any number of gestures) does a fine job of imitating normal speech sans sound due to the variety of phonemes it possesses. For each unique sound necessary in forming a syllable of this word, a particular face-mouth-tongue configuration is required to vocalize it - even if no sound is made. By providing a multitude of extras one simple word to mimic soundless conversation, it eliminates the need for these ersatz "actors" to come up with pantomimed "lines" on the fly and yet give them the vehicle of facial gesture and pseudo-conversation to improvise with.

watermelon (4-8-01)

a watermelon is thrown
and as it grazes the sky
it smashes into a building, content
though its seeds are bitter,
as they've seen the other watermelons take the chance
and they know the other watermelons gave away
crimson stained smiles, seeds and parents content.

it feels like a ratio,
like sometimes he can't venture out of his life's
and he was programmed from birth through childhood
and here's what he's left with:
not yet a score but bitter
sometimes he falls asleep and it's nice
and when he wakes up it's almost the dream
but he can see the numbers
and he knows he hasn't beaten them.
The Joy Of Watermelon

Watermelon, at the appropriate times, is everything that is right and good with the world.

I walk home in the sweltering heat, a backpack pulling at my shoulders, and all I can do is sweat and think "Ugh". I arrive at my house, wishing I could collapse. But lo and behold, I open the refrigerator and there is a ziploc bag of crisp watermelon slices, gleaming. I take, I bite, and suddenly it's all worth it. All the bad thoughts I had before, the resentment of walking and thirsting, are gone and I am awash in the relief of Watermelon.

Having no other recourse, I start thinking. The only reason the watermelon was so delicious was because I had been so desperate. If I had gotten a ride home in an air conditioned car, I might not have eaten any watermelon at all. I might have gone on never realizing the true joys I could've experienced. So maybe this falls under the "No Pain, No Gain" category. Maybe happiness can only come through unhappiness. But I prefer to think that the only reason to put up with suffering at all(or in my case, inconvenience), is that sweets are only so much sweeter. Greats are only so much greater. Watermelons are only so much more watermelonier.

Is this delicious fruit really so symbolic, so meaningful?

The answer, of course, is that it's just a melon.

History and varieties

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is probably the best known melon in the world. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers, summer squash, and other melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew. Like other melons, watermelon is native to central Africa. It was first cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians and quickly spread throughout Africa and to warmer regions in Asia Minor, the Middle East, and even as far north as Russia. During this early period watermelons were used mainly as a source of water rather than a source of food. The Moors helped spread the melon to Western Europe when they invaded Spain in 700 AD. From there, early settlers brought the melon to Massachusetts in America in the early 1600s. The fruit was popular with both settlers and Native Americans and crops quickly spread down the Atlantic coast all the way to Florida. Today, watermelon is mainly grown in the United States in Texas, California, Georgia, and Florida.

Watermelon is the number one melon grown and consumed in the world, followed by cantaloupe and honeydew. The average American consumer eats about 13 pounds of watermelon annually. Besides consuming the flesh, watermelon rinds are often pickled (see Watermelon Pickles for a recipe) and the watermelon juice can be fermented to make an alcoholic drink (see Making alcohol from a watermelon for do it yourself instructions!) In regions of Russia the juice is also boiled down to make a syrup like molasses used for sweetening.

There are hundreds of varieties of watermelon currently grown around the world, but only about fifty or so are available on the market. All these varieties have a similar sweet flavor but they differ greatly in size, the color of the flesh, and whether they are seeded or seedless. The average size of a large watermelon, often called a “picnic melon”, is about forty pounds, but new varieties such as “icebox melons” can weigh as little as five. The color of the flesh is normally pink, but can also be yellow or white. Seedless varieties tend to be more expensive than seeded, but make preparation and eating much more enjoyable. The newest, oddest variety of melon was created in Japan. These melons are square instead of round so they can fit better in small refrigerators (read more about this variety here.)

Watermelon plants and growing watermelons

Watermelon plants are long vines with large green leaves that grow on the ground. These plants prefer hot and humid environments. Each plant produces both male and female flowers that are pale green-yellow. Male flowers outnumber female flowers by as much as ten to one. The female flowers can be identified by a slight bulge at their base. The flowers only open for one day and must be pollinated by honeybees. After pollination the fruit fully develops over the course of about four months. Watermelons can weigh from five to fifty pounds depending on the variety and each vine typically produces two to three melons each. The melons have a thick outer rind that is green with white or yellow streaks. Inside the rind is a sweet and extremely juicy flesh spotted with hundreds of black or white seeds (except for the seedless varieties). The flesh is made up of about 90% water, which means that a forty pound melon contains about 4 gallons of water. Once ripe, the fruit is generally picked by hand to prevent cracking or bruising the rind.

Watermelons and other melons are a fine addition to any summer garden. However, this fruit is more suited to larger gardens because of its long vines. Watermelon plants really need two things to grow well. First, they need to be warm, so make sure you are in a climate with summer temperatures around 70 ° F. Also, plant the seeds well after the danger of frost. Second, since the fruit is made up of mostly water the plants need plenty of water, either by irrigation or lots of rain. One suggestion is to thoroughly water the plants just until they start to grow melons and then cut back the amount of water. This is thought to keep the fruit from being water-logged and less sweet. Plant watermelon seeds in loose, sandy foam soil to a depth of one inch. Most gardeners tend to overplant initially and then thin the plants as they grow. If you don’t want to start with seeds, watermelon transplants can also be purchased. Once the vines reach a certain size they often require pruning and turning to promote growth. When the melons are ready to be picked (check below to determine when they are ripe), use a knife to cut them off the vine instead of simply pulling the fruit, which can damage the plant.

Buying watermelons

It can be rather difficult to determine if the whole watermelon in the supermarket is ripe, but there are some tips to help choose a good one. First, make sure the melon is not damaged by checking the rind for bruises or cuts. Second, check the “ground spot” of the fruit. This is the area where the melon rested on the ground. Ripe melons have a yellow spot while unripe ones have a white one. Ripe melons also may have a rough rind or may have small ribbed indentations on the skin. Some say that ripe melons should produce a soft hollow sound when struck with the fingers instead of a harder, metallic one.

Purchasing cut watermelon is slightly easier. Just look for firm, brightly colored flesh. Generally the more color the flesh has the sweeter the fruit will be.

Once at home, store cut watermelon in the fridge for only a couple of days before eating. Whole watermelon can be stored in a cool place for up to two weeks.

Wa"ter*mel`on (?), n. Bot.

The very large ovoid or roundish fruit of a cucurbitaceous plant (Citrullus vulgaris) of many varieties; also, the plant itself. The fruit sometimes weighs many pounds; its pulp is usually pink in color, and full of a sweet watery juice. It is a native of tropical Africa, but is now cultivated in many countries. See Illust. of Melon.


© Webster 1913.

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