botanical name: Citrullus lanatus
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The watermelon belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family: it is an annual and climbing plant with large leaves covered with fluff.
Origins and History
Native to tropical regions of Africa, it is characterized by a massive fruit that is a false berry: on average reaches 20 kg in weight, has an oval or round and a tough peel, smooth and green striated. Its pulp is red, but depending on the variety can hire a white, orange or yellow. In fact there are more than 1200 varieties of watermelon, which differ in the color and the weight of the fruit: it goes from a minimum of one kilo to a maximum of 90 kilos. In any case, the watermelon is full of seeds and grows from May to September.
It is unknown when it was started watermelon cultivation, however, this practice has been recorded for the first time in an Egyptian tablet dating back almost 5000 years ago. From the tenth century A.D. the plant is widespread in China, today the largest producer in the world, and was introduced into Europe by the Moors in the thirteenth century. According to the explorer David Livingstone watermelon would be native to the Kalahari Desert, where it still grows wild today, and in a widespread manner.
Nutrients and beneficial properties of watermelon
Watermelon is the summer fruit par excellence and brings many benefits to the body. Even if it contains few calories it has a good amount of sugars and vitamins: in particular there are fructose (hence the sweet taste) and vitamins C, A, B and B6. It also has a lycopene content higher than tomatoes: therefore, the consumption of watermelon helps prevent pancreatic cancer.
This antioxidant protects the cells of the body from aging and free radicals; at the same time it lowers bad cholesterol levels as well as to prevent cardiovascular disease.
A daily consumption of watermelon in summer protects the skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun, and stimulates brain activity, thanks to the high content of vitamin B6.
The use of watermelon in cooking
Watermelon is one of the symbol of summer fruit not only because it grows in this season; indeed it is composed for more than 90% of water and is therefore a refreshing food and with a minimum caloric intake. Typically just sliced eaten fresh, but can be the main ingredient in a large number of recipes, all delicious and able to give relief from the summer heat.
For example watermelon serves to realize excellent sorbets, milkshakes and ice cream simply and quickly. You can also add another summer very popular product like the sangria, so as to obtain an original and refreshing aperitif.
Alternatively you can serve the watermelon as a dessert as ice cream or aspic: in this way, even those on a diet can enjoy a sweet moment. Finally this fruit is one of the ingredients with which to prepare tasty and refreshing salads. In areas from the tropical climate it is common to serve on a tray watermelon cut into cubes along with papaya, pineapple and mango.
Watermelon is a fruit always been greatly appreciated, since the days of ancient Egypt: here was considered to be of divine origin, because it was born from the seed of the god Seth. Also why it specimens inside the tombs of Pharaohs have been found: they had to serve to nourish the soul of the deceased sovereign on their journey to the afterlife.
At beciuani watermelon is a sacred plant, as these are considered purifying its leaves: consequently, before the harvest, in a January day adult males of the tribe crush the leaves and apply the juice and navel to toes.
So they purify with the same liquid the members of their family: only after the end of the rite they can pick the fruits and eat them.