This is what watermelon used to look like
You think you know watermelon, right? Wrong. So wrong.
It turns out that this summertime fruit has a crazy history, one where it looks completely unrecognizable. The evidence: Renaissance painter Giovanni Stanchi’s still-life painting of fruit. At first glance, the painting appears to feature typical grocery store items on a simple table, but when you look closer . . . you’ll realize that something is slightly out of the ordinary.
In the bottom right, you’ll see a fruit that looks unfamiliar. It kind of looks like watermelon, but it’s definitely missing something. It couldn’t be watermelon, could it? Wouldn’t it be insane if it was watermelon?
Well – surprise! – it actually is watermelon! Us humans have bred watermelons to have that juicy red color that we see today. Since the 17th-century, a lot has changed and this – right here – is proof.
The watermelon’s fleshy interior is actually its placenta. Before it was widely cultivated, it lacked high amounts of lycopene, which is what gives it its red coloring. In other words, lycopene has definitely helped the watermelon’s metamorphosis along.
Fun fact: Watermelons actually originated in Africa. After the fruit became domesticated, it was able to thrive in the hot climates of the Middle East and Europe. Around the 1600s, it most likely became a popular staple in European gardens. Professor James Nienhuis believes that these watermelons would have tasted just as good as they do today, especially since they were eaten fresh!
Nienhuis – who is a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin – actually uses Stanchi’s painting during his lectures on crop-breeding. “It’s fun to go to art museums and see the still-life pictures, and see what our vegetables looked like 500 years ago,” he told Vox. What a great way to peer into the past and to see how science has changed the world we live in.
And it seems that we aren’t quite done with watermelon’s makeover. Scientists have been experimenting to get rid of this delicious fruit’s seeds. This means that future generations will most likely have to look at our photographs to see what these seed-filled watermelons looked like in today’s world.
Apparently, a lot can change as the years go by and, interestingly enough, watermelon is the perfect example.
(Images via Twitter and Shutterstock)