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“W” is for Watermelons

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“W” is for Watermelons. Watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) are members of the gourd family native to Africa. Both enslaved Africans and European colonists were probably responsible for first introducing the fruit to South Carolina. In colonial times watermelons were generally much smaller than most modern-day varieties. Eating watermelon was considered an effective remedy for fevers. The rinds were often pickled. Modern commercial production is concentrated in the southern portion of the state (Bamberg, Barnwell, Colleton, Allendale, Hampton, and Aiken Counties). Historically, the Sandhills region was celebrated for its watermelon production and Chesterfield County is still a significant producer. In 1954 C. Fred Andrus revolutionized watermelon production with the development of the Charleston Gray watermelon. By the 1960s, it was estimated that the Charleston Gray variety of watermelon made up ninety-five percent of the U.S. watermelon crop.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.