Watermelon is a fruit that has been around for more than 2,000 years, and although truly new developments in how it’s grown are rare, they’re not unheard of. Several decades ago, the seedless watermelon was created thanks to the miracles of cross pollination. And, in the past decade, Japanese farmers have found a way to create watermelons shaped like squares and pyramids using molds to coax the watermelon into various forms while it grows.
Beyond that, the watermelon as we know it has remained virtually unchanged: a round or oblong fruit/vegetable with a sweet, red (or sometimes yellow) interior. But that all changed recently in a laboratory/greenhouse in San Jose, CA, when botanists, with the help of biologists from several area universities, were able to produce the first watermelon with a multicolored interior. Pictured below is one of the first watermelons grown using the new method.
By altering the structure of the carotenes and carotenoid pigments in the watermelon, the group was able to “reprogram” the watermelon’s genetic code to create a product with flesh in various hues based on a simple input in the first two weeks of the watermelon’s growth cycle. According to researchers, although the watermelon may look vastly different on the inside, the actual taste and nutritional benefits of the fruit remain unchanged.
The watermelons were grown in a controlled indoor environment between October 2009 and March 2010. For now, the experiment is limited to around 50 watermelons, but the researchers hope to perfect the technique over the next year in time for a large-scale, outdoor trial at a 100-acre farm near Sacramento, CA, in 2011 and have the multicolored watermelons – which they expect to sell for virtually the same price as regular watermelons – in select stores nationwide later that year.