Watermelon is tasty, satisfying, and refreshing on a hot summer day, but did you know it also has a 5,000-year history? It’s more than a tasty snack or the base of our lunch favorite Watermelon Soup, it was once a staple for the indigenous people of the Kalahari Desert region of southern Africa.
The watermelon that was enjoyed all those millennia ago in the Kalahari Desert is a bit different than the watermelon we know and love today. Food scientists and historians today don’t know the exact name of the ancient ancestor of the watermelon, but they do know that it had a thick and bitter rind, it was prized for its ability to store hydration, and it is believed that the seeds were once roasted for an additional nutritional source.
About 4,000 years ago watermelon began making its first developments into the fruit modern people are more familiar with. It’s believed that during this time the ancient melon was brought to Egypt, where plant breeders began experimenting with the fruit to create a sweeter and more pleasant flesh. Ancient watermelon seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs, alongside paintings of the large oval-shaped fruits that look more like today’s modern watermelons than their ancient ancestors. Watermelon was no longer simply a source of easy hydration in the desert, it was a refreshing sweet fruit that was to be savored and enjoyed in all sorts of ways.
Ancient medical records, recipe books, and sacred texts have shown us how watermelon made it out of Egypt and subsequently made its way all over the world. In the Bible, watermelon is cited as one of the foods the Israelites wished for after leaving Egypt. In ancient Jewish Law manuscripts, watermelon was one of the foods cited to be distributed to religious leaders and the poor. In Greece, Hippocrates and Dioscorides praised watermelon in ancient medical texts for its healing properties as a diuretic and treatment for heatstroke. In the 7th century watermelon was being cultivated in India, in the 10th century it was being grown in China, by 17th century it had become a common garden crop all throughout Europe.
Watermelon is a summertime staple and there are so many ways to enjoy it as part of a healthy lunch in Agoura Hills or Thousand Oaks. In a Watermelon Soup, it’s a cool, refreshing, and flavorful treat perfect for a midday pick-me-up!