The first image likely to pop into your head with the word “watermelon” is a juicy red slice of the sweet treat.
But red watermelon isn’t necessarily the first variety to grow on this planet. Sources are murky, but there are indications the first cultivated watermelons, emerging in Africa about 5,000 years ago, were yellow.
Read on to learn more about the yellow watermelon of today, from its nutritional value to its use in meals and snacks, to growing it in a home garden.
Yellow Vs. Red: More Than a Color Difference
The difference between yellow and red watermelon is a difference in carotenoids. Carotenoids are organic hydrocarbons that, in addition to controlling pigmentation in fruits and vegetables, also offer antioxidant properties to human consumers of those fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants protect the body at a molecular level, by neutralizing unstable molecules known as “free radicals.” Too many free radicals in the body can seriously damage cells, and those damaged cells may in turn play a role in various medical issues.
Beta Carotene Is Yellow, Lycopene Is Red
The antioxidant in yellow watermelon is beta carotene, which also is found in similarly colored vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.
The antioxidant in red watermelon is lycopene, which, as in tomatoes, imparts a red color.
Both beta carotene and lycopene provide specific health benefits.
Lycopene, for instance, protects the eyes from oxidative stress and protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Beta carotene, converted into Vitamin A by the body, may help reduce cognitive decline in older adults. Additionally, it may potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer and lung cancer.
Other Health Benefits of Yellow Watermelon
Since this is, after all, a post about yellow watermelon, we’ll take a minute to explore its specific health benefits beyond beta carotene.
First off, its water content helps restore fluid levels and blood volume. The electrolytes it contains, including potassium, magnesium and calcium, are good for addressing symptoms of dehydration such as fatigue and muscle weakness.
Yellow watermelon also contains citrulline, which supports the production of nitric oxide. In turn, nitric oxide helps in heart muscle health and lowers the heart rate.
Ways to Eat Yellow Watermelon
The deliciousness of yellow watermelon, like red watermelon, can be enjoyed in a simple slice. You may, though, notice some difference in taste. Yellow watermelons are usually sweeter, sometimes described as having a hint of honey.
There are, though, ways to enjoy yellow watermelon other than simply slicing into it. It’s delightful in a salad with mint leaves and crumbled feta cheese, and there are even recipes featuring grilled yellow watermelon.
Growing Your Own Yellow Watermelon
It once was difficult to find yellow watermelon, but in recent years it’s become much more widely available. Nonetheless, if you’re worried about finding yellow watermelon, you could try growing it.
Starting Your Patch
Plant only after the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees, usually after the last frost. You’ll have watermelon ready for picking in 70 to 100 days.
There is no need to start seeds indoors. In your garden, prepare a mound of soil about 6 to 8 inches high and place three or four seeds at least one inch deep in the mound.
Make sure mounds are 3 feet apart, and if you’re planting more than one row, locate the rows at least 4 feet apart.
Your watermelon seeds should sprout a little more than a week after planting. When that happens, thin out your patch, leaving only the healthiest seedlings in the ground.
Best Conditions for Growing Yellow Watermelons
Yellow watermelon needs full sun in a soil mix of sand, silt, and clay. If that doesn’t describe your garden spot, improve it with compost or manure.
Watering is particularly important for yellow watermelon. Until you see fruits beginning to form on vines, keep the soil moist, but not soggy. After your watermelons are softball-sized, water only when the top of the dirt is dry.
If you’ve used compost or manure to improve your patch’s soil, you won’t need to use fertilizer.
Yellow Watermelon Pests and Diseases
As your watermelon vines grow, be on the lookout for aphids and cucumber beetles.
Aphids are tiny bugs that live off of plants, particularly young ones, sucking fluids from leaves and flowers. They measure no more than an eighth of an inch and may be green, yellow, orange, black, white, or gray. If you notice a sticky substance on your plants, you may be seeing a sign of aphids.
Controlling aphids is as simple as washing them off of your vines. You can also get rid of them with soapy water or insecticidal soaps.
There are two types of cucumber beetles, striped and spotted, a reference to the patterns on their bodies.
Cucumber beetle larvae feed on roots and stems and can kill seedlings. Adult cucumber beetles will feed on leaves, petals, and fruit.
There are insecticides available to control cucumber beetles, but there is also a natural way to control them. Planting blue Hubbard squash, which attracts cucumber beetles, at the edges of your watermelon patch might stop problems before they start.
Diseases in the Patch
Leaf spot, mildew and anthracnose are common diseases in yellow watermelon.
Alternaria leaf spot, manifesting as small circular spots on older leaves, can be addressed with liquid copper or powdered sulfur fungicides. Using drip irrigation and removing dead plant matter can also guard against it.
Powdery mildew, which shows up as powdery-looking leaves, can be addressed with fungicides. It may be prevented by planting watermelons sufficiently far apart.
Likewise, fungicides can address downy mildew, which shows up as pale green leaf spots. Downy mildew can be prevented by planting where there is lots of air circulation.
Anthracnose shows up as pink, yellow, or green spores on leaves. The best treatment is prevention, including the use of certified disease-free seeds and preventative fungicide application.
Where to Buy Seeds
Watermelon seeds are available online from Hoss Tools, True Leaf Market, and Botanical Interests. Plant in the spring, and within eight to 12 weeks, you should be harvesting your first watermelon.
We found a few yellow varieties we think you’ll really enjoy!
Treat Yourself to Yellow Watermelon!
We hope this post has taught you a lot about yellow watermelons and maybe inspired you to grow them.
For more about watermelons, check out our Watermelon Plants page for blog posts on different varieties and helpful growing and care guides!