Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai, family Cucurbitaceae) refers to both fruit and plant of a vine-like (climber and trailer) herb originally from southern Africa and one of the most common types of melon. This flowering plant produces a special type of fruit known by botanists as a pepo, which has a thick rind (exocarp) and fleshy center (mesocarp and endocarp); pepos are derived from an inferior ovary and are characteristic of the Cucurbitaceae.
The watermelon fruit, loosely considered a type of melon (although not in the genus Cucumis), has a smooth exterior rind (green and yellow) and a juicy, sweet, usually pink, red, or yellow, but sometimes orange, interior flesh. David Livingstone, an explorer of Africa, described watermelon as abundant in the Kalahari desert, where it is believed to have originated. There, the ancestral melon grows wild and is known as the Tsamma melon (Citrullus lanatus var tastius). It is also known in Zimbabwe as nwiwa, mwiwa or iswe.
It is recognizable by its pinnatifid leaves and prolific fruit, up to 100 melons on a single vine. For this reason it is a popular source of water in the diet of the indigenous people. The flesh is similar to the rind of a watermelon and is often known as citron melon (distinct from the actual citron, of the citrus family); it is used for making jam and other preserves, and because of its high content of pectin is popular as a constituent of jams, jellies, and other gelled preserves.
It has established itself in the wild in Baja California. In fact, most melons are rich in potassium, a nutrient that may help control blood pressure, regulate heart beat, and possibly prevent strokes. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines state that a potassium-rich diet helps keep salt from raising blood pressure and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and possibly age-related bone loss. The guidelines encourage adults to consume 4,700 milligrams per day (while keeping sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which is one teaspoon of salt).
Melons are also abundant in vitamin C, one arm of the now-famous disease-fighting antioxidant trio. Another arm that’s well represented is beta-carotene. Researchers believe that beta-carotene and vitamin C are capable of preventing heart disease, cancer, and other chronic conditions. No matter which way you cut them, when it comes to nutrition, melons are number one. Watermelon is a valuable source of lycopene, one of the carotenoids that have actually been studied in humans. Research indicates that lycopene is helpful in reducing the risk of prostate, breast, and endometrial cancers, as well as lung and colon cancer.
The best way to beat the heat of summers is to indulge oneself in the consumption of the thirst-quenching watermelon. Not only is it a great fruit in summers, it is also a healthy fruit which helps in providing protection from various diseases due to its high nutritional quality. Along with being sweet and juicy, watermelon is packed with important antioxidants which can help in the prevention of various problems like kidney stones, heart diseases and cancers amongst others. Watermelons are rich in potassium which helps in controlling blood pressure thereby ensuring the health of one heart. Moreover, it also helps in preventing strokes along with reducing the risk of kidney stones and age related bone loss.
Watermelons are a good source of Vitamin C and vitamin A which help in neutralizing free radicals thereby reducing the risk of heart disease, asthma and colon cancer along with helping in alleviating symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. This sweet and juicy fruit is also rich in carotenoids like lycopene, beta-carotene and others. These carotenoids have antioxidant properties which reduce risk of prostate and oral cancer along with providing protection against cardiovascular disorders.