133 Watermelon Lycopene Content Varies with Cultivar and Maturity Stage

in HortScience

The red flesh of watermelon contains the fat-soluble carotenoid pigment lycopene. A high level of lycopene in human blood serum has been correlated with a reduced incidence of several cancers. This experiment was done to determine the variation in lycopene content among watermelon cultivars and ripeness stages. Ten melons per cultivar of hybrid, open-pollinated, and triploid (seedless) types were selected from field plantings at Lane, Okla. Additionally, 20-melon, quarterly shipments of hybrid or triploid types were used from commercial growers. Melons were cut transversely and a 100-g sample of heart tissue was removed from the center, frozen at –80 °C, extracted with a hexane–acetone–ethanol mixture and pigment quantified at 503 nm. Unripe melons (about 3 to 5 days from fully ripe) had 18% less lycopene than ripe melons. The average lycopene content of all ripe melons sampled (open-pollinated, hybrid, triploid) was 47.82 μg/g (n = 247 melons), while that of ripe hybrid and triploid melons was 54.76 μg/g (n = 209 melons). Lycopene content of ripe melons varied among cultivars, from as little as 33.96 μg/g in `Crimson Sweet' to as much as 75.72 μg/g in `Scarlet Trio'. These results indicate that fresh watermelon has a naturally high level of lycopene and that potential for enhanced lycopene content is already present in the germplasm of commercial cultivars.

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