Karen Pfautsch, Chief Client Strategist, Rooster Strategic Solutions
“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat.” — Mark Twain
In honor of the upcoming National Watermelon Day, August 3, and in recognition of the thousands of pounds of delicious melons that will be consumed over this Fourth of July weekend by hungry Americans, we offer some interesting numbers tied to this amazing fruit. Or is it a vegetable*?
75-feet, 2-inches. The current record for watermelon-seed-spitting was set by Jason Schayot of Georgetown, Texas in 1992. Seasoned ‘spitters’ like Jason recommend choosing a large, heavy seed with a bit of watermelon flesh attached and curling your tongue like the rifle of a barrel to achieve maximum airtime.
92 percent. Watermelons are, in fact, mostly water. But they’re also chock-full of nutrients; a single serving provides 21 percent of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C and 18 percent of Vitamin A, plus significant levels of Vitamin B6, antioxidants, and amino acids.
54 million dollars. Americans spend more on watermelons during the Fourth of July weekend than on baked beans, apple pie, or a long list of other sides. But watermelon isn’t just for the Fourth anymore; year-round production and healthier diets have combined to increase annual watermelon consumption to 16 pounds per person in the U.S.
20 feet. Experienced backyard gardeners know that watermelons sprawl, with vines growing up to 20 feet or sometimes longer. But they’re easy to grow as long as you have well-drained soil and full sun. When it’s time to harvest, some folks slap, tap, or thump the melon to determine ripeness, but that’s not necessary; when the color on the bottom turns from a light green or white to a pale buttery yellow, it’s time to pick.
40 million. According to the USDA, U.S farmers produced 40 million pounds of watermelons on 113,000 acres last year, primarily in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and California, creating domestic watermelon availability from March through October. More than 85 percent of production watermelons grown today are seedless varieties. Growers typically start the seeds in greenhouses and transplant 2800 to 4400 plants per acre in single rows, 5- to 8-feet apart. At least two fertilizer passes are generally performed, and the plants are harvested by hand. Typical yields are 31,800 pounds per acre. Capital costs can range from $4800 to $5500 per acre.
This is obviously a big business, supported by a long list of industry leaders. Syngenta, for example, maintains several sites across the globe for vegetable research including the Syngenta Global Cucurbits Center of Excellence; the company’s Full Count® transplant program revolutionized watermelon production, selling more than 1 billion plants as of 2019. A free report on watermelons is available with everything a grower needs to know about producing a crop.
350.5 pounds. Chris Kent of Sevierville, Tennessee holds the record for the largest watermelon grown, clocking in at roughly the same weight as a large NFL lineman.
85 calories. A slice of watermelon is a delicious and nutritious snack. And with a little surfing you can find hundreds of recipes for salads, desserts, drink ideas, soups, and appetizers. And before you throw away the rind, know that the entire plant is edible. In China the rinds are stir-fried; cooks in the southern U.S. like to pickle them.
So, as you celebrate the Fourth of July this year – and look forward to National Watermelon Day on August 3 – take a moment to savor this delicious snack and tip your hat to the growers who made it possible. And feel free to spit the seeds! You might even set a new record.
*It’s both. A watermelon develops from the plant’s ovary after flowering and holds the seed, which makes it a fruit. But it grows like a vegetable and is considered a member of the plant family Cucurbitaceae, which consists of crops commonly referred to as cucurbits; it’s also the official state vegetable of Oklahoma. Fruit or vegetable, it’s delicious!