A watermelon is never simply a watermelon

Contrary to what you might think, watermelons looked very different (and probably tasted better) in the Renaissance compared to today. Why exactly? Farming practices have changed and genetically modified food has modified the humble watermelon out of its original state of being.

Take a look at this renaissance painting by Giovanni Stanci, courtesy of Christies to see how the fleshy fruit would have looked in the 17th Century.

Watermelon is never just a watermelon
Giovanni Stanchi (Rome c. 1645-1672) Watermelons, peaches, pears and other fruit in a landscape; and Chrysanthemums, tulips, irises and other flowers and fruit in a landscape.


The curly and compartmentalised flesh of the fruit looks completely foreign to our eyes.

A watermelon is never simply a watermelon

In an infographic by James Kennedy, you can see the genesis of watermelon from seed to cultivation and beyond.

About five thousand years ago in Africa, watermelons were bitter and inedible. They went through thousands of years of selective breeding and became how they appeared in the Renaissance painting. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th Century that advances in agriculture and crop resistance that scientists were able to develop thicker rinds.

Seedless watermelon varieties come from Japan where crop scientists fiddled with watermelons by adding chemicals to double a watermelon’s chromosomes and create the mutant seedless variety, that is nonetheless convenient for us to eat and therefore universally popular.

A watermelon is never simply a watermelon

Source: James Kennedy

If I had the choice, I would much rather eat the organic, untainted version from Renaissance Italy, what about you?


10 thoughts on “A watermelon is never simply a watermelon

    1. Exactly Dan….I dont know I guess its about season and where you are on the planet. Sometimes in Australia and NZ they are practically throwing them out and they are $1 per kilo

  1. Yup, agreed. How interesting would it be to try all produce in it’s natural, UNmodified form

    1. Yes I think it’s gone on too long for there to be a return to the swirly weird shapes of this watermelon though sadly, thats lost to history

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