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When the days get longer and the temperatures start creeping, there’s only one way to ring in the summer. It’s time to bite into a fresh, juicy watermelon! Few foods signal seasons quite like this beloved treat. Do you eat yours straight sweet and off the vine? Or, do you opt for the southerner’s preferred method of sprinkling those delightful chunks with a pinch of salt ?
Either way, there’s no denying the refreshing flavor! However, while you know you love it, did you realize there are actually lots of different types and varieties of watermelon? In fact, there are more than 300 different kinds cultivated around the United States and South America. Today, we’re digging into the types and varieties of watermelon you should try this year. You might need to try them all for a true taste test!
Main Differences Between the Different Types and Varieties of Watermelon
The main differences between the different types and varieties of watermelon are:
- Some varieties weigh as little as one pound, whereas others weigh 45 pounds or greater
- Some varieties are long or oblong in shape, whereas others are round
- Some varieties have dark green rinds, whereas others have light green or even yellow/orange rinds
- Some varieties have seeds, whereas others do not have seeds
What Is Watermelon?
It’s a simple question, but what exactly is a watermelon?
In short, this fruit belongs to the same botanical family as other summer melons. The specific family name is Cucurbitaceae, and it also includes various kinds of gourds. However, unlike melons such as honeydew or canteloupe, the watermelon plant is more closely associated with leafy green plants, like the ones that produce cucumbers.
What sets it apart? Watermelon seeds are not contained in a hollow core. While you can cut most melons in half and scoop out the seeds (similar to how you’d prepare squash), you can’t exactly do that with a watermelon. Instead, the seeds and the fruit are interwoven, and the flesh cannot be separated. Both cucumbers and watermelon share this quality. Plus, both foods consist mostly of water.
Specifically, water makes up around 92% of an average watermelon, and around 95% of a cucumber. If you’re feeling parched on a warm summer day, grab some fruit!
A Look at the Fascinating History of Watermelon
Before it became everyone’s go-to side at the family picnic, where did watermelon begin, and how far back we trace its origins? You may be surprised to find that this fruit originated in the deserts of southern Africa!
In fact, before there were watermelons as we know them today, there was a similar fruit predecessor in look and texture. This plant was extremely drought-tolerant and had a remarkable ability to store water. Tribes crossing the Kalahari Desert found that particular trait very useful!
To find when the first actual watermelon harvest began, you’ll have to travel back more than 5,000 years ago to ancient Egypt. The recorded by Egyptian hieroglyphics, watermelons were harvested there in early communities.
In addition, they also held a spiritual relevance. Families would place watermelons in royal burial tombs to help nourish kings during the afterlife! As maritime trade picked up, merchant ships began to take watermelons across the Mediterranean Sea. In the 10th century, the fruit entered mainland China, which remains the top global watermelon producer to this day.
It continued to spread throughout Europe during the 13th century and beyond, a movement that many researchers attribute to the Moors who were active during this time period.
What Makes Watermelons Different From One Another?
Why is there such an impressive number of watermelon varieties to consider? The answer lies in the growing seasons required to produce the fruit. As you may expect, summer is prime watermelon season in the United States. The hot-weather staple has become almost synonymous with Fourth of July cookouts and Memorial Day parades.
In South America, however, the watermelon season peaks between the months of September to February. There’s even a National Watermelon Fair held every September in the Brazillian city of Uruana.
This means that the growing season there is a complement to ours in the US, there is always a year-round supply of the fruit available. Thanks to the different growing climates, soil types, and geographic regions, those supplies differ greatly in terms of:
Due to the sheer number of types, many people categorize watermelons according to their shared characteristics. For instance, you might group them by fruit shape or fruit size. Or, you may split them by the color or pattern of their rind!
Types of Watermelon to Try and Enjoy
Variety might be the spice of life, but in this case, it’s truly sweet. You might not think much about the different types of watermelon as you pick one out at the grocery store, but this fruit is more of a chameleon than most people know!
While we can’t list each of the 300 varieties here, let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.
Ah, the ever-popular seeded watermelon! If you’ve never spit those tiny black seeds to see who can send them flying the farthest, then it might be time for you to try your hand at this fun summer activity.
These are the classic, traditional watermelons that are most often depicted in the media. You may also see them called picnic watermelons. Some of the most common types include:
- Crimson Sweet
- Charleston Gray
- Black Diamond
- Georgia Rattlesnake
- sweet princess
- Klondike Blue Ribbon Striped
Seeded watermelons are available in a variety of weights and sizes. Most seeded watermelons are between 15 and 45 pounds and can be long, oblong, or round in shape. Their flesh is pink, and their rind is thick and green.
And yes! The seeds on a seeded watermelon are fertile. That means that they could grow into another watermelon if you plant them!
While there’s plenty to enjoy about a seeded watermelon, it’s no secret that those pesky seeds can get a little annoying after a while. They aren’t dangerous to consume in small amounts, but it can be a pain to pick around them. Hearing these complaints, modern watermelon growers began cultivating seedless watermelons.
Today, this is one of the most popular varieties to grow and consume. Moreover, as the field of seed breeding becomes more tech-savvy and advanced, seedless watermelons are no longer as pithy and pale as they once were.
You may have noticed that newer varieties are redder in color and crisper in texture than their early counterparts. While you might see some white seeds in seedless watermelons, these aren’t really seeds. Instead, they’re seed coats, leftover when a seed formed but didn’t fully mature. They are safe to eat!
At the store and unable to distinguish between the options? Check the label on the watermelon and see if there’s a name listed. Some of the most common varieties of seedless watermelons include:
- king of hearts
- queen of hearts
- jack of hearts
Though they’re neater and easier to eat than seeded watermelons, it’s important to know that seedless varieties aren’t created via genetics. Rather, they’re the result of a process called hybridization, which occurs when cultivators cross two different types of watermelons.
Most seedless watermelons weigh between 10 pounds and 25 pounds and are round or oblong in shape.
While seeded, picnic watermelons are oversized in nature, icebox varieties are designed to be a little smaller. These can comfortably feed one person or a small family.
The main types of icebox watermelons are:
- Sugar baby
- Tiger Baby
- Bush Sugar Baby
- Blacktail mountain
Most melons in this category weigh between five and 15 pounds. Sugar Babies have a dark green rind and sweet pulp, while Tiger Babies have a rind that’s a little more golden in color.
Mini or Personal Watermelons
Have you ever eyed a massive watermelon at the market and lamented that it would be so delicious, yet too filling, to eat the entire thing on your own? If so, mini watermelons were created for people like you!
As their name implies, these are small, personal watermelons that fit easily between your two hands. Their rinds are typically thinner than larger varieties, which you get a greater amount of flesh per pound.
Ideal for parties and small get-togethers, mini watermelons usually weigh between one and seven pounds. While shopping, the types of mini watermelons to look for include:
- Little darling
- Golden Midget
- Mini Love
Looking to make a great impression at your next event? Hollow out the fruit using a melon baller and use the rind as a little serving dish!
Yellow or Orange Watermelons
If you’ve only seen the red and green varieties, you might be confused to see yellow or orange watermelons on your grocery store shelf! While they may be unexpected, these melons are every bit as delicious as the others! The main difference is that these varieties do not contain lycopene, which is the plant nutrient that gives red-fleshed watermelon its color.
Some of the most popular seeded types include:
- Yellow Baby
- yellow doll
- desert king
Yellow and orange watermelons can be seeded or seedless. Most weigh between 10 and 30 pounds and are round-shaped. If you want to surprise guests at your next party, add these to the fruit tray and watch their reaction!
If you want to cut right to the characteristics that distinguish these main types of watermelon, this comparison table delivers the facts you need.
|Seeded Watermelons||Seedless Watermelons||Icebox Watermelons||Mini Watermelons||Yellow or Orange Watermelons|
|Average Weight Range||15 to 45 pounds||10 to 25 pounds||5 to 15 pounds||1 to 7 pounds||10 to 30 pounds|
|shape||long, oblong, or round||round or oblong||round or oblong||Small and Round||round or oblong|
|Rind and Flesh Color||Green rind and pink flesh||Green rind, darker pink flesh||Dark green rind and pink pulp, Tiger Babies have golden rind||Thin green rind, thick pink pulp||Yellow or orange rind, pink pulp|
|Popular Types||Jubilee, Allsweet, Crimson Sweet||King/Queen/Jack of Hearts, Millionaire||Sugar/Tiger/Bush Sugar Baby, Blacktail Mountain||Little Darling, Golden Midget, Mini Love||Yellow Baby/Doll, Tendergold, Desert King|
Answer: It’s a question that’s almost as common as the great tomato debate . Botanically, a tomato is a fruit, just the peppers and pumpkins are fruits even though they aren’t nearly as sweet.
However, though it’s categorized this way, many consider watermelon a vegetable , chiefly because it contains the following characteristics:
• Member of the Cucurbitaceae gourd family
• Related to other vegetables (such as cucumber and squash)
• Planted from seeds or seedlings
• Harvested and removed from the field similar to other vegetables
Technically, a vegetable is anything created or derived from plants. Using that definition, watermelons could be considered vegetables! However, context is key, here.
In popular Western culture, watermelon is used and referred to as a fruit. Like other fruits, you can enjoy it raw, cubed, sliced, or balled. However, in regions like China, watermelon used more like a vegetable. There, it’s common to find it in stews, stir-fries, and other savory dishes.
Answer: There is no one-size-fits-all watermelon variety that will work well in every area. Instead, different regions will contain certain soil nutrients, climate conditions, and growing properties that are better suited to some types than others.
If you’re ready to grow your own watermelons, the best route is to consult a local growing expert. You can usually find these professionals at your closest university or cooperative extension office.
Not only can a growing expert tell you which kinds of watermelons to plant, but they’ll also know when to plant and pick them.
Answer: Strolling the produce aisle, unsure whether you just put a ripe or unripe watermelon in your cart? It’s easy to check as long as you know what to look for. The following traits are indicative of a ripe one:
Bright green stem (not brown or dried out)
Smooth outer skin
Visible “ground spot” (an area where the rind has turned white or yellow on the underside)
Hollow sound when lightly tapped
Before long, you’ll know how to make a beeline straight to the ripest, juiciest melon in the store!
Anxious to get your hands on a true taste of summer? As mentioned, watermelon is grown in many warm climates during alternating seasons, so it’s always seasonal somewhere!
You can use this helpful chart to find out when it will be peak watermelon season in your neck of the woods!
Answer: If you want a watermelon that’s so sweet it will rival most candies on the shelf, you have to check out the Sultan!
With an average weight of 15 pounds, Sultan watermelons are oblong in shape, with a defined striping to their rind. To measure its sweetness, it helps to understand how the Brix scale works.
Shortened from Degrees Brix , this scale measures the amount of pure sucrose content in 100 grams of a solution. It’s often used to measure the sugar content in substances such as:
• Fruit juices
• Soft drinks
• Tomato Concentrates
Put simply, one Degree Brix means that an item contains one gram of sucrose for every 100 grams. In terms of watermelons, between 7.8 and 8.2 is somewhat sweet, while 8.3 to 9.0 is sweet. Anything greater than 9.0 is very sweet. Sultan watermelons measure 12.3 on this scale!
Types and Varieties of Watermelon: Final Thoughts
Now that you know a little more about the different types and varieties of watermelon, are you ready to enjoy some for yourself? Whether you support your local farmer’s market, pick one up at your nearest grocery store, or grow one in your own garden, there’s no sweeter way to ring in the summer!
For more insight on how to turn your backyard into the garden oasis of your dreams, check out more of our helpful guides!