Citrullus lanatus – in Latin, citrullus is the diminutive of citrus and lana means wool, referring to the fuzziness of the young fruit.
Nineteenth-century explorer Dr David Livingstone found large patches of watermelon growing in central Africa. They are cultivated as well as found in a semi-wild state in Namibia and Botswana. In southern Russia and the Middle East, watermelons have long been grown and their seeds roasted. They reached China 1000 years ago, where their seeds are still the sole source of oil in some remote areas.
A rambling vine has small male and female flowers that become large, football-sized fruits. Watermelons need a long, hot growing season and a lot of space, but they are easy to cultivate in the right climate. Pruning of the vine is beneficial, but less so than for rockmelons (Pip, Issue 19). Watermelons prefer a loamy soil.