What is a South African summer holiday without the crisp, cool refreshing taste of watermelon?
The bright red fruit has become synonymous with summer in many households across all cultures and ages, evoking the nostalgia of trips to the beach, pool parties, seed spitting competitions, or visiting with grandparents on the porch.
Because of its large size large, watermelon is a fruit enjoyed when shared. Laughter and smiles that replicate a slice of watermelon are guaranteed to emanate as families and friends gather to relish in the revitalising benefits of the fruit.
Ncedisa understands that watermelon is one of the traditional summertime favourites across South Africa and takes great pride in supporting Habata Agri with crop management and harvesting of the best produce destined for the local and international markets.
Planting of watermelon seeds and seedlings usually commences around the end of August each year. Depending on the cultivar and weather conditions, the growth period is around 12-18 weeks. Watermelons grow on vines that develop from the initial sprout and can grow to be six metres long. The number of vines determines how many watermelons there are per plant, as each vine can produce between two to four melons per season.
Watermelon is a large oval-shaped fruit with a thick green outer rind and juicy red flesh inside. The colour of the rind provides insights into identifying what type of cultivar it is and the type of crop management it will need. For example, the darker the green, the more susceptible it will be to sunburn.
To determine when watermelons are ready for harvest, the fruits get examined according to the colour of the rind and if the tendril and leaves around the stem are dying. This indicates that the plant is no longer feeding the fruit, therefore it is mature and ready to be picked.
Great care is taken when harvesting watermelons as they cannot just be plucked from the vine but are carefully and individually cut from the stem using sharp knives. For the produce to maintain freshness until it reaches the consumer, the watermelon gets cut leaving, about 4cm of the stem on the fruit, as this helps to prevent rotting and spoil.
Well known for its hydrating benefits because of its high water content, the watermelon has a multitude of additional health benefits. The luscious red flesh contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium and large amounts of potassium.
It also has a wide variety of antioxidants, amino acids and loads of phytonutrients lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant linked to a decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye disorders.
While the majority of the harvest is for local consumption, about 40% of the yield will be for international export. Because of its popularity, seedless watermelons have become one of the major crops grown in the Sunday’s River Valley, where Ncedisa plays a vital role in aiding Habata Agri to produce quality fruit.
Make memories this summer with family and friends while enjoying the sweet juicy flavour of the refreshingly crisp watermelons handpicked for you by the Ncedisa Team.