stone said:I grew these last summer:
They grew well for me... tasted good... and... Made for interesting telling and retelling of the story of a New World Watermelon!
Watermelons come from Egypt... If these truly are from the Americas... that is a pretty interesting case of parallel evolution!
Planted a bunch of those pretty red seeds again this year...
The Spaniards were growing watermelons on large scale in Mexico in the second half of the XVI century already. It proved to be widely popular with local Indios and Native Americans loved it as well and started developing their own cultivars as soon as they got seeds on trade. By 1650 Native Americans were growing watermelons as far north as Massachusetts Bay. The founding cultivars were largely of Spanish origins but it cannot be ruled out some Asian cultivars were introduced by the Manila Galleons connecting The Spanish Philippines with Mexico.
Watermelon seeds are generally viable for 5 years if stored properly and many of the tecniques used nowadays to recover ancient/old seeds were only developed starting in the 80's. Even if the conservation conditions were exceptional, obtaining a 5% germination with centuries old seeds in the 1920's would have been extraordinary. Truly extraordinary. So my gut feeling is these seeds were much younger than originally assumed.
There are all sorts of "lost domestic breeds", ranging from the legendary Talbot hound of Medieval England to completely obscure Japanese tobacco cultivars. Once in a while one resurfaces, or perhaps a previously unknown breed is discovered and quickly claimed to be a long lost national treasure or whatever. It's very hard to learn the true, and even then the situation may be extraordinary complicated as far as genetics go.
To be honest I have never had the room nor the climate to grow watermelons. Even melons adapted for short growing seasons really struggle here: I have presently four (for testing purposes only) and at the present growing rate they may bear fruit in 2056.
I'd love to test one those fabled watermelon cultivars from Asia but right now I'll focus on other stuff that has a chance of growing here.