Traditional Foods


Watermelon was brought to North America by trade from Africa. Native Americans who lived in what is now known as the southern United States have been growing watermelon for hundreds of years. Watermelon grows best in full sun and warm temperatures with a good water supply. Many Tribes grew watermelon because it grows like squash, a staple of Native farming. For the Natchez, June was called the watermelon moon. Watermelon is 92 percent water and can be stored for months in a cool dark place to last after the summer harvest.


Choose a smooth, firm and heavy watermelon that is free from bruises, soft spots, cuts or dents. The ends of the watermelon should be well-rounded. Watermelon should have full sun for ripening and the underside should have a creamy yellow spot where it sat on the ground.

Ripe watermelons will have a dull, muffled, hollow sound when thumped. If it is not ripe, the sound will be a clear ring. Some describe the sounds as a “ping” for unripe and a “pong” when ripe.

A 1-pound watermelon is about 3 cups of diced melon.

The most common type of watermelon is seedless. They weigh 10 to 25 pounds and may have soft, white edible seed coats that are safe to eat.

Look for locally grown watermelon from July to September.

Watermelon has vitamin A, vitamin C and no fat, cholesterol or sodium.


Store whole watermelons at room temperature for 7 to 10 days.

Cut watermelons should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or food storage bag and should stay fresh for 3 to 5 days.


Wash watermelon with cool, running water and scrub the rind with a soft-bristled brush before slicing.

Adapted from Blake, L. (1981). Early Acceptance of Watermelon by Indians of the United States. Journal of Ethnobiology. 1(2). 193-197;, and

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