Watermelon almost certainly comes from Central Africa, where it continues to grow in the wild.

It has grown in all warm countries since the dawn of time, as its thick rind allows it to grow without requiring too much water. It was (and still is) consumed as a way to quench thirst when water was scarce or polluted.

The Egyptians routinely offered it to their visitors. Greeks and Romans preferred it to the melon. It is not widely grown in Europe, except in Spain.

Watermelon arrived in America with the Spanish conquest, but also with black slaves. It was quickly adopted by Native Americans and has been growing in gardens since the 16th century.

In Africa, they eat its seeds, which are rich in carbohydrates and proteins. They are eaten in India too, where they are also used to make flour and bread. In Asia, they are grilled or roasted, then salted and eaten.

A good watermelon does not sound hollow when tapped. Some yellowish spots on its rind are a sign that it is perfectly ripe.

Watermelon is sold whole, and also frozen in pieces or puree.

Watermelon seeds are also available.

The watermelon can be served sprinkled with salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil, with goat cheese, or in a salad or fruit skewers.

It can be made into sorbet, granita, jam, or coulis. The rind can be candied.

In China, watermelon is served battered and fried.

It is kept in the refrigerator or cold room because heat speeds up the ripening process, resulting in floury flesh.

Watermelon is not much higher in water than other fruits, but it contains very little fiber, and this is what makes it seem like a particularly watery fruit.

It contains some carbohydrates, but also a lot of antioxidants, including lycopene, which is particularly beneficial, and vitamin C.

There are two main types of watermelon: round and oval. Of these, the best-known varieties are:

. Sugar baby, the most well known. It has a bright green rind and very sweet red flesh.

. Charleston, elongated with a mottled green rind.

. Miyako, striped skin and often floury flesh.

. Moon and stars, green rind spotted with yellow, sweet red flesh.

There are also hybrids, seedless varieties, the first of which was developed in 1949 in the United States: Sweet wonder, with pink flesh, Rouge bouquet, red flesh (grown mainly in Spain).

Watermelon is grown in all warm countries, but not much in France; it is available to buy from May through June.

China, Turkey, Iran, Brazil, Morocco, the United States, Egypt, Russia, Spain, and Greece are the major producers.

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