slices of red watermelon

Watermelons are large, sometimes stripy, dark green spherical fruits, although there are some other rarer varieties of different coloured rind. The relatively tasteless but refreshing and thirst-quenching flesh is usually crimson, red or pink, but again other varieties are known. They’re members of the gourd family, along with cucumbers, pumpkins and courgettes.

Jane Grigson is said to have referred to them as “green cannonballs” but generally the fruits are much larger than the average cannonball. They’re more similar in size to a football and can grow up to six kilograms in weight.

They are thought to have originated in southern Africa and are said to have crossed the Atlantic to the USA on the slave ships. These days they’re grown anywhere the climate is suitable.

The rind, which has an unpleasant flavour, is sometimes pickled and eaten, especially in the southern US. Watermelons are usually sliced and served raw, either on their own or as part of a fruit or a savoury salad, eg with mint leaves and feta cheese.

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