Watermelon can be artificially ripened as well as adulterated heavily. With watermelon’s it is not easy to tell a good one from a bad one. One needs to be very careful while buying watermelons as they are often unsafe for consumption due to inherent malpractices followed to increase watermelons’ shelf life and make it look more appealing.
Adulterant used in Watermelon (Forchlorofenuron & Erythrosine – B)
Forchlorofenuron is a growth accelerator. It promotes rapid cell division and also delays cell death. Thus it is used a few days before the intended sale in order to increase the size of the fruit which sells by weight.
Erythrosine-B / Red-B is a red colored dye which is injected into watermelon to give it bright red color.
Chemicals used in artificial ripening of Watermelon (Oxytocin & Calcium Carbide)
Often fruits and vegetables need to travel several 1000 miles before they end up in their final sale destination. This journey may take a few days to a couple of weeks. Thus, fruits and vegetables are often harvested raw and then artificially ripened at the point of sale. Oxytocin is one such chemical that is frequently used for achieving quick ripening of watermelon. It is unsafe for humans. It can often lead to stomach ache and can cause nervous breakdown if overdosed.
Another chemical widely used for artificial ripening is Calcium Carbide. It releases Ethylene on coming in contact with moisture and hastens the ripening process. It can cause many adverse effects to humans ranging from mild headaches to deadly cancer.
How to check if Watermelon is safe or adulterated?
1. Lack of Taste – When growth enhancers are added to watermelons, they promote cell division at a speed higher than natural. This devoid watermelon of their flavor since natural sweet taste comes with time.
2. Water Test – Cut a small slice of watermelon and place it in a pan full of water. If the water changes color very quickly, it confirms some red color agent being added.
3. Time Delay Test – Keep the watermelon out in the kitchen for 2-3 days. Since injecting fruit with chemicals increases the probability of its premature decay, the fruit will start oozing some smelly fluid.
Best practices while shopping for Watermelon
1. Look for a pale yellow patch on watermelon. This is generally at the spot where watermelon was lying on the ground. This hints watermelon ripened on the vine.
2. Look for web-like spots on watermelon. This indicates that bees may have pollinated watermelon flowers
3. Pay attention to the tail of watermelon. If it is dry and of dark black or brown color then it has naturally ripened. Adulterated watermelons may have a green stalk.
4. Look for any injection or puncture marks on watermelon.
5. Do not buy watermelons or any fruits during offseason.
Gaurav is an entrepreneur whose first Start-up was focused on providing services to patients suffering from Chronic Diseases. While researching about the causes of lifestyle diseases and the ways to reduce their incidence, he chanced upon the idea of growing healthy and nutritious food using advanced farming techniques.
He founded CityGreens with a mission to enable City Dwellers to access Safe, Healthy and Fresh food.