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.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.