Dry weather means sweeter watermelons

VIRGINIA BEACH—Dry summer days have made for sweeter Virginia-grown watermelons.

"They have a really good flavor this year," said Virginia Beach produce farmer and farm market operator Mike Cullipher. "We have to irrigate a lot, not because of lack of rainfall but because the temperature is so high." Cullipher serves on Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Small Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Committee.

Watermelons are about 90 percent water, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. So, with this summer’s diminished rainfall, "they are sweeter, because not a lot of water is going into them, making them have more nutrients captured inside to produce a lot of flavor," Cullipher said.

Profits are down due to irrigation costs, he noted, but watermelon sales are up.

Virginia farmers harvested 1,200 acres of watermelons in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Contact Cullipher at 757-721-7456.

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