Monday, August 16, 2010

Taste of Summer

Banana Yoshimoto coined the phrase, “watermelon, the synonym of summer as the summer without watermelon is improbable” in her novel Thrush. Many are the number of Haikus I found which dealt with watermelons. Listed below are five of my translations, randomly picked.

"Summer lassitude! Bananas and watermelons are so tasty"

"Tapped and patted watermelon head that replied with ok sounds "

"'Monopoly', the fridge complaining of space occupied by watermelon"

"Watermelon “split”! Strange my arms and limbs benumbed and frozen"

"Watermelon “split” is a summer feat with shouts of joys and chuckles"

Yes, watermelon is the king of summer fruits, though some people might object that it is a veggie and not a fruit. No other fruit is like the subtly crunchy, throat quenching watermelon. It is originally from southern Africa. In Egypt, the cultivation was as early as the 2nd millennium BC, as evidenced by wall paintings and the discovery of numerous watermelon seeds recovered from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Greeks and Romans had it 2000 years ago. In the 11th century, it went to China through Turkey and the Silk Road. Moorish invaders introduced it to Europe. In the 17th century, European immigrants carried it to North America.

Here are a few assumptions about watermelon in Japan:
1) Watermelon seeds were found in the prehistoric Yayoi remains in the Okayama area.
2) Chinese Rev. Yinyuan (1592-1673) brought it from China.
3) In 1579, the Portuguese brought it to Nagasaki, together with pumpkins.

Is watermelon good for health? “What an insult!,” a watermelon would protest if it could speak. A Japanese agronomist, Yasusada Miyazaki (1623-1697), who served the Fukuoka Clan, wrote almost 300 years ago in his Compendium of Agriculture that the watermelon not only can beat the summer heat and curb thirst but cures various kinds of illness, including diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Let me list the virtues, in view of the calories, vitamins, antioxidants, diuretic features of watermelons.

1. Slows down aging
2. Prevents heart attack and stroke
3. Reduces the risk of cancer
4. Boosts energy production

It is definitely a summer delight for everyone, young and old, family get-togethers or outdoor group events; with minimal costs.

After a quick search on Google, I found the world's first Watermelon Museum (4,000 square meter building on 22,000 square meter property) built in China in 2008. It's in sourthern suburban Beijing just inside the Beijing boundary, called Daxing District, reachable in an hour by a minivan tour. I read the visitors' reports that the museum exhibits include 900 illustrated panels, 140 watermelon displays, and a collection of 200 seed samples. After an hour tour of the museum, they were taken to nearby fields to choose a watermelon of their choice, then to a nearby restaurant that features watermelon dishes.
Watermelon Museum in China

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