Whither the Watermelon

Do you remember summer evenings with sticky watermelon juice all over your hands and face, and big shiny black seeds to spit out? Those days seem to have come and gone, with seedless varieties taking the work out of the job of eating melons for us. Has convenience replaced flavor?

Melissa at the Traveler’s Lunchbox seems to think so. Her lyrical post “Melons of Memory” is an ode to a childhood summer’s day when her father, after patiently waiting for the local melons to finally come ripe, would bring one home for the family to share.

[T]aking the biggest knife he had, my dad would divide the melon’s stubborn midsection into massive slices, like rounds cut from the trunk of an ancient tree, sometimes so big they would dwarf the dinner plates he put them on. We would use both fork and knife to attack them, as if they were steaks instead of pieces of fruit on our plates, and we would always start from the center of the slice—the crispest, sweetest part—and work our way outwards.

Her sadness is that modern melons, while bred for their lack of seeds, seem to have lost their flavor along the way.

[T]hose exquisite, oblong watermelons of my youth are becoming an endangered species, replaced by a growing preference for hybrid seedless varieties. … I can only assume that the people buying into these new-fangled hybrids have never actually tasted a truly good watermelon. The differences between the two, at least to my tastebuds, are gargantuan; where the seeded melon is complex, floral, and slightly acidic, the seedless melon is watery and cloying with only the barest whisper of that quintessential watermelon flavor.

Her paean to watermelons lost is lovely, and certainly true to my experience. These days melons seem mushy, without the heavily granular texture I remember from when I was a kid. Melissa offers a recipe for what to do with subpar melons, which looks lovely, but it’s not the same.

There are other things lost along the way as well. With the prevalence of seedless watermelons does that mean no more watermelon-seed spitting competitions? That’s a serious bummer.

See more articles
Share this article: