Citrullus lanatus is a plant species in the family Cucurbitaceae, a vine-like flowering plant originally from sub-Saharan Africa. It is cultivated for its fruit. Of course, watermelon back then was a far cry from the sweet, juicy fruit eaten today. The fruit believed to be the direct ancestor of watermelon (Citrullus colocynthis) is known as “bitter apple” and “bitter cucumber,” for reference. Even today, most of Africa’s wild watermelons are prized for their seeds rather than their pulp.
In 2011, the world’s largest producers of watermelon were China, Iran, Turkey, Brazil, and the United States, respectively. India ranked 28th, producing approximately 375,000 metric tonnes in the same year—put in perspective, this amount accounted for a mere .38 percent of the world’s consumption.