Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Square Watermelons Are Novel but Costly, Labor-Intensive

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Square Watermelons Are Novel but Costly, Labor-Intensive

Article excerpt

The following CORRECTION/CLARIFICATION appeared on August 12, 2016.Susanna Meyer's name was misspelled in a story Wednesday about square watermelons.

Since the dawn of time there has been an unspoken rule: When nature is inconvenient, humanity will try to alter nature.

From man-made lakes to super-sizing animals, this practice has taken many different forms over the decades. Sometimes for convenience and sometimes for pure entertainment, novelty nature has been spreading to food. Case and point: square watermelons.

So why go from round or oval fruits to square ones? Size.

Those who have worked at a farm stand or in a grocery store know only too well that transporting watermelon can be a hassle. Square watermelons, which weigh only 14 pounds, are compact and will not roll away or take up an entire shelf in a refrigerator.

The novel take on watermelons stems from Japan. In the 1980s, the 20-pound fruit's size proved to be problematic for compact Japanese refrigerators, and so farmers chose to alter the shape.

It was done not through crossbreeding or genetic modification but with a square-shaped mold.

In their natural form, the melons already require a little more love and care than the average crop. But their novel cousins require even more tender-loving care. To be square-shaped, the watermelons must be monitored painstakingly on a daily basis, as the slightest crack or blemish can undo months of work. Not only should their stripes be perfectly vertical but also the melons must be removed from their molds at the correct time or the farmer's work will be undone.

Also, these melons don't always become square at the same time, and sometimes don't become square at all because they are needier than the average crop. So in turn that means more labor is required because the melons need to watered, monitored and pest-controlled closely.

Everything has its price and with the watermelon, the cost of the square shape would be its taste. As a result of being grown in a square mold, the watermelons are unable to reach full maturity. …

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