Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spittin' Seeds

When I was a child, there was nothing like watermelon.

Dad would bring home a melon from some place, and he'd carry it down to the springhouse. He'd stow it in the water trough that was built inside the spring.

Later, he'd bring the melon up to the house. He'd take a knife to the rind and split it open.

Always, there was a satisfying chunk and the sound the something yummy making an appearance.

My brother and I, plus any visiting relatives, would take our slabs of watermelon outside to the front porch. From there we could see a field, the springhouse, and a small creek. Some of us would sit on the porch swing.

We'd take great big bits of springhouse-cold watermelon. The goodness of it would make our eyes roll back in our heads.

And then we'd spit seeds at one another.

Watermelon seeds are great for spittin'. They are much more aerodynamically shaped then, say, a cherry pit or a grape seed or something.

We'd spit the seeds far and long. Some sailed out into the yard. Others sailed into someone's face. "You'll put somebody's eye out," some grown-up would inevitably say.

We never did, of course.

This summer I have eaten many watermelons. Every single one of them has come from the grocery store. Each has been cooled in my refrigerator. Not a one has tasted as good as any I can remember from childhood.

And none of them have had seeds.

I am sure many people hail the invention of the seedless watermelon as a perfection of the fruit, but I confess I miss the hardness of the seeds, the feel of them swishing around in my mouth while I try not to swallow them, and the option - the option, mind you - of spittin' the things out at something or somebody.

Surely an entire generation (or maybe two?) has grown up without the joy of spittin' a watermelon seed at a sibling or cousin.  Many folks don't know that grapes once had seeds. I suppose if they could breed the cherry pit out of a Bing cherry, they'd do that too.

Some watermelons are genetically engineered, but most are hybrids - a type of selective breeding. Unfortunately, because of lack of labeling laws and regulations on genetically engineered foods, one can scarcely know which is which and what they are buying. It is entirely possible that the seedless watermelon I purchased this morning is not a hybrid but genetically modified food.

Big corporations are pushing GM foods upon the US population at a rather alarming rate. These changed-up foods are not well-tested, and people with allergies or other food issues should be wary of pretty much everything they eat these days, at least in America.  The loss of seeds in watermelons and other fruits is the least of our worries, although I must point out that without a seed, reproduction is impossible.

Indeed, reproduction of many foods is nearly impossible, for big corporations claim intellectual and property rights on most seeds these days. In the name of stopping terrorism, the government last year attempted to pass legislation that would have turned all of us with home gardens into criminals. They called this the Food Modernization Act and it was listed as SB 510 and HR 875 & 2751. The initiative did not pass the House (though it passed the Senate) - this time - but expect it to come up again in some new form in upcoming legislative sessions, if it hasn't already.

It would be a good idea if we all would pay more attention to what is actually happening in the halls of government. We should also pay attention to what corporations are doing and why. Ultimately, of course, it is about the money, not about feeding the masses. And frankly, that reason there is enough to make me suspicious of every single thing that Monsanto and other food companies do. When something is only for the money - and what isn't these days, thanks to capitalism - it's all suspect.


  1. I always too a fork and picked the seeds out of my slice before eating it.. no spitting in my neighborhood. And as an adult I have completely lost my taste for watermelon. But give me a honey dew and now we're talking serious like!


  2. Anita! Please, please send this to the newspaper! People need to know these things. And your writing was wonderful. Loved how you started out with such a lovely story. I had no idea about the genetic engineering. And I didn't even think how capitalism contributes to this. And what do you mean they own the seeds? Wow. I'm going to stop buying seedless watermelon.

    Last year Kelly was eating a slice of watermelon while riding her horse. She spit the seeds over the arena fence. By the end of summer, we had watermelons growing on the bank! Somehow the horses didn't see them and eat them or trample them.

    I always crave watermelon. It's my second favorite fruit after raspberries.

  3. I loved your story about the sweet, ice-cold watermelons of your childhood, Anita, and about the joys of seed-spitting. I remember that, too, with pleasure.

    I do find all the devious seed-engineering by the huge corporations scary. I've noticed that most of the flowers I buy now say that reproducing them is illegal, but thank God, many of them still self-sow. And there will always be the wonderful old-fashioned passalong plants shared by kind friends and neighbors.

    By the way, I'm not sure if you're referring to the Food Safety Modernization Act (perhaps you're referring to something different), but I think it exempted home gardeners and small farmers with incomes under $500,000. And I'm not sure, but I think it may have become law.

    Very well-written post.


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