August 3 is another summer food holiday. Today is National Watermelon Day! Hot off the heels of National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, this holiday celebrates the greatness of watermelons.
Watermelons are the perfect summer snack. They’re healthy, since they’re 90 percent water and absolutely delicious. They cool you down when it’s hot outside. And it’s also fun to cut up into shapes, as social media users have figured out recently.
Here’s a look at the origins of National Watermelon Day and what you need to know about watermelons.
1. There’s No Known Origin for the Holiday, but Its Popularity Began Spiking in 2009
The creator of National Watermelon Day is a mystery, National Day Calendar notes.
Search stats on Google Trends show that there have been searches for “National Watermelon Day” as far back as 2004, but interest in the holiday began to spike in 2009. Since then, searches for the holiday on August 3 jump. Interest in the holiday over time has only grown.
The National Watermelon Promotion Board celebrates the holiday, encouraging social media users to share the hashtag #NationalWatermelonDay.
2. People Have Been Enjoying Watermelons for Over 5,000 Years, Starting in Africa
As The National Geographic reported in 2015, the history of the watermelon is muddled. While it’s agreed that it originated in Africa, the precise part of the continent is up for debate. Strangely, even the name of the watermelon we eat today is off. Scientists call it Citrullus lanatus, even though “lanatus” means “hairy” in Latin. The name was originally meant for the cirton melon, which is fuzzy. That fruit is now called Cirtrullus amarus.
The citron melon is a possible watermelon ancestor and grows in southern Africa. But horticulturalist Harry Paris told National Geographic that there is evidence of humans enjoying watermelon that predates farming in southern Africa. For example, there was evidence of watermelon seeds discovered at a 5,000-year-old settlement in Lybia. There’s also evidence that the Ancient Egyptians enjoyed it, since paintings of the fruit have been found in tombs.
Paris, whose paper on the history of the watermelon is available here, notes that the watermelon then traveled to Mediterranean countries through trade. Ancient Roman and Hebrew writers mentioned the fruit.
Paris found that color sketches of the watermelon in Europe finally showed up in a medieval manuscript called Tacuinum Sanitatis, a guide to healthy living.
3. Seedless Watermelons Were First Developed in Japan in 1939
Although watermelons have been around for millennia, seedless watermelon is a human-created phenomena. As noted in a U.S. Department of Agriculture research paper from 1971, seedless watermelon was developed in Japan in 1939 and first made by Kihara and Nishiyama while they experimented with producing seedless fruits. However, seedless watermelons were not initially welcomed in the U.S. because of “insufficient disease resistance.”
In recent years, the popularity of seedless watermelon has exploded. The Agriculture Marketing Resource Center reported in 2015 that seedless watermelon made up a 51 percent share of total watermelon shipments to the U.S. By 2014, that increased to 85 percent.
Forbes reports that seedless watermelon is still not a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). “The refreshing seedless fruit was created by crossing a parent with four sets of chromosomes with a parent with two sets,” Forbes science contributor Kavin Senapathy wrote.
4. Over 90 Percent of a Watermelon is Water
They don’t call it a watermelon for nothing! It’s true that watermelon is over 90 percent water. The Watermelon Promotion Board states that 92 percent of the fruit is water, so it will help you stay hydrated during the summer. The fruit is a good source of Vitamin A and C, potassium and magnesium.
While most of us just eat the flesh of the watermelon, the entire fruit is edible, including the rind, or skin. As Healthline explains, the rind also has health benefits. one study from 2012 showed that watermelon extract supplements can help obese adults control blood pressure.
The U.S. ranks sixth worldwide in watermelon production. Florida, Texas, Georgia, Indiana and California are the states that produce the most watermelon.
According to World Atlas, China is the top producer of watermelons in the world, producing 72,943,838 metric tons a year. Iran and Turkey round out the top three.
5. There Are National Watermelon Day Deals Available Throughout the U.S.
Just like other food holidays, retailers and restaurant owners try to cash-in with promotions to woo in customers. Bonefish Grill restaurants will be selling their Fresh Watermelon Martini and other martinis for $5.
When you use Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Tropical Rewards App today to buy a sandwich, salad, wrap or flatbreat, you’ll get a coupon for a free Watermelon Mojito that’s good for August 3 to August 8.
There are also local National Watermelon Day deals you can find on Facebook. Some Chick-Fil-A locations will be giving out free small Watermelon Mint Lemonades between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The Greene Turtle sports bar chain is giving away a free Watermelon Boardwalk drink with the purchase of an entree.
Although it’s not being held exactly on National Watermelon Day, Silver Circle Sports Events, LLC is hosting a National Watermelon Day Run in Hartford, Wisconsin.
A Harley-Davidson dealer in South Barre, Vermont is giving visitors a free Watermelon slice.