Watermelon—Why We Call It A “Fregetable”

What makes a fruit a fruit, a vegetable a vegetable? Though it may sound quite funny but the fact is there has been a lot of debate about this with regard to the classification of watermelons. In botanical terms, a watermelon is the fruit of the watermelon plant. But being a part of the cucurbitaceous family, watermelon is also classified as a vegetable. To sidestep this conflict, growers in the United States consider it as both fruit and vegetable, and sometimes call it a “Fregetable”.

For years, people have debated about the classification of tomatoes as well – is it a fruit or a vegetable? The big question to ask is, does it have seeds? And tomato is really a fruit of a vine native to South America. What about watermelon? Botanically, a watermelon is a fruit, a ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents – much like the pepper, pumpkin or tomato. However, as a member of the cucurbitaceous plant family of gourds, watermelon is also related to cucumber and squash, planted from seeds or seedlings, harvested, and then cleared from the field like a vegetable.

In culinary terms, the distinction is hazier. North Americans primarily treat watermelon as a fruit and use it as delicious sweet snack in salads and desserts. Yet, in countries such as China, and other parts of the Asian continent, watermelons are stir-fried and stewed. Pickled watermelon rinds are a delicacy in Russia. Moreover, since watermelon is grown as a vegetable crop using vegetable production systems, it is considered a vegetable.

Fruit or vegetable, in whatever perspective you take it, watermelons are a sweet delicacy with numerous health benefits. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C, thiamin and vitamin B6. It is also a source of vitamin A, magnesium and potassium, contains no cholesterol and is very low in sodium. This rich red fruit is fat-free and also has lots of lycopene, an antioxidant, believed to reduce cancer and lower the risk of heart attack. Though there is sugar in the melons, it is naturally diluted by the high levels of water in the fruit.

Watermelon is the most popular melon in the US and has been cultivated here for hundreds of years. Watermelon growing is serious business out here. Watermelon competitions are a common event at fall festivals. Watermelons are also one of the most kid-friendly items; they can be sliced, diced, carved and pressed into novelty shapes with cookie cutters. Watermelon blends nicely into smoothies, makes tasty Popsicles and can be scooped and frozen into refreshing snow cones.

Watermelon varieties are larger, fleshier, sweeter, the seeds smaller and the rind thinner. Watermelon is perhaps the most refreshing, thirst-quenching fruits of all. It’s a perfect snack to serve in hot and humid summer days when we require restoring our body with a lot of fluids. Fresh watermelon may be eaten in a variety of ways. The two most popular ways of its consumption are plain or with a pinch of salt. Shrimp and watermelon also go well together; sweet and sour watermelon and cucumber salad is a classic pairing. Watermelon mango margarita is smooth, fruity and incredibly delightful to taste. Watermelon syrup over vanilla ice cream or even angel food cake is a pure delicacy. Be it a fruit, a vegetable or a “Fregetable”, why should you bother? Pick up a good one from your grocery store and tap the watermelon for that special “thump” and gulp it in your favorite style.

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