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Watermelon & Berries. I am berry confused.


With the time of daylight getting a bit longer each day, school getting ready to end and the temperature becoming less chilly, I know it is getting close to summer time. Boiling temperatures while we go berry picking, mixed with a cool pool and chilled watermelon is something my children, and myself, long for beginning the first warmer day of spring.

Speaking of watermelon, I just learned that it is not really a “melon”. You may want to sit down for this…

I told Russ Hickson, GoFresh’s Produce Guru, that I was thinking about researching watermelons and he informed me that they are actually a berry and not a melon. WHAT!!! I thought berries were smaller fruit that we could grab a handful of and stuff in our cheeks? I have to cut watermelon and eat it off the rind. How can this be a berry? I found an article on Live Science by Laura Geggel that helped shed some light on my confusion.

“The discrepancy in berry nomenclature arose because people called certain fruits ‘berries’ thousands of years before scientists came up with a precise definition for the word, said Judy Jernstedt, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis. Usually ‘people think of berries as small squishy fruit that can be picked off plants, but the scientific classification is far more complex’, Jernstedt said. Botanically speaking, a berry has three distinct fleshy layers: the exocarp (outer skin), mesocarp (fleshy middle) and endocarp (innermost part, which holds the seeds). For instance, a grape’s outer skin is the exocarp, its fleshy middle is the mesocarp and the jelly-like insides holding the seeds constitute the endocarp, Jernstedt told Live Science. The same layered structure appears in other berries, including the banana and watermelon, although their exocarps are a bit tougher, taking the form of a peel and a rind, respectively. (The suffix ‘carp’ comes from the word ‘carpel,’ which refers to the pistil, the female organ of the flower, Jernstedt said.) In addition, to be a berry, a fruit must have two or more seeds. Thus, a cherry, which has just one seed, doesn’t make the berry cut, Jernstedt said. Rather, cherries, like other fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone that contains a seed, are called drupes, she said. Moreover, to be a berry, fruits must develop from one flower that has one ovary, Jernstedt said. Some plants, such as the blueberries, have flowers with just one ovary. Hence, the blueberry is a true berry, she said. Tomatoes, peppers, cranberries, eggplants and kiwis come from a flower with one ovary, and so are also berries, she said. Other plants, such as the strawberry and the raspberry, have flowers with more than one ovary. ‘Raspberries have those little subunits,’ Jernstedt said. ‘Each one of those little subunits comes from an individual ovary. And those subunits are actually [called] drupes.’ Each drupe contains a seed; that’s why wild raspberries and blackberries are so crunchy, according to Jernstedt. Because these types of fruit consist of so many drupes, they’re called aggregate fruit, Jernstedt said. A strawberry is also an aggregate fruit, but instead of having multiple drupes, it has multiple achenes, the little yellow ovals on the fruit’s surface, which each contain a seed.”

WOW! Then my kids and I really love berries because we’re fans of every fruit just mentioned. It will take me a while to accept bananas as a berry through.

One of my favorite memories as a child was from the fourth of July. My neighborhood pool would have a competition among adults, usually consisted of my friends dads, to see who could get the watermelon out of the pool first. It was hilarious to watch this green fruit bob and slip between those struggling to claim it. Sometimes the watermelon would make it out of the pool but would be a bit beat up from the event. Regardless, the watermelon was sliced into triangular pieces ready for consuming.

As an adult, I have wondered how to pick the perfect watermelon that will have the same delightful sweet taste I remember from those hot summer days. If you have also wondered, here are some ‘Tips from an Experienced Farmer‘ to refresh your memory from last summer.

“Look for the field spot: The yellow spot, known as the field spot, is the place where the watermelon rested on the ground. Ripe watermelons always have creamy yellow or even orange-yellow spots, not white.
Look for ‘webbing’: These weblike brown spots on the watermelon mean that bees touched the pollinating parts of the flower many times. The more pollination, the sweeter the fruit is.”

Once you have your watermelon, here are some creative idea of how to prepare it from Sienna Fantozzi at Delish.

Have fun in the sun with all the berries!
Eat, Live, and GoFesh

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