While we may think of it as the quintessential American fruit, watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) are enjoyed worldwide. They are natives of Africa. The ancient Egyptians were cultivating them in the Nile River Valley at least by 2,000 BCE; Paintings of enormous and unmistakable watermelons have been found on the walls of Egyptian tombs. Watermelons seem to have arrived in Europe in the eighth century with the invading Moors, who crossed Africa, presumably picking up watermelons en route, on their way to conquer Portugal and Spain. The melons didn’t have much luck in points farther north, such as England and northern Europe, unless one was rich enough to have a greenhouse. The climate was just too chilly for watermelons–but they were wildly successful in the steamier New World.
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