Fruit – The Seedless Watermelon

People often ask how you can have seedless watermelons. They were created in the 1940s by an American plant geneticist called Orie ‘O.J.’ Eigsti.

A myth to get out of the way immediately is that seedless watermelons are genetically modified. They are not.

A seedless watermelon is a sterile hybrid which is created by crossing male watermelon pollen with a female watermelon flower. It is the same as simple cross breeding of animals such as a horse and a donkey to create a mule or a lion with a tiger to get a liger. This is not genetic modification. Cross-breeding is just two parents and their offspring.

Significantly, seedless watermelons still need to be pollinated by their seeded parent. Growers frequently have seeded and seedless together in their fields.

Eigsti’s invention was a long time coming to commercial fruition, however. He promoted the seedless watermelon for 40 years before it took off in the 1980s. His wife Agnes once recalled the 1960s and ‘70s as their ‘starvation period’.

But once it took off, the seedless watermelon was a hit. They’re now over 90% of sales of watermelons.

By seedless, it means there are no mature black seeds. People often think the white seed coats often found inside seedless watermelons are actual seeds. But they are simply the coat of a seed that didn’t mature, and they’re perfectly safe to swallow.

  • A old wives’ tale has it that if you swallow watermelon seeds, a watermelon will grow in your stomach!
  • The world record distance for spitting a watermelon seed is just under 23 metres. Ptooey!