Some seductively dark watermelons caught my eye walking through the market Saturday and I stepped to the stand to peep. I picked up the biggest and turned it over in my hands. The skin had a pattern etched into it. Whoa, look at this baby! Courtney was duly impressed.
It looks like crop circles, I said, turning to the woman womanning the stall, Have you seen these? She bent over them, Yeah I think that’s a bug, she said, unimpressed. Look there’s more! The pattern was on all of them, to varying extents. I’m gonna buy this one just because of the pattern I told her, you should totally emphasize this, put these out front, they’ll sell like crazy, you’ll be a millionaire! Three bucks she said.
I hefted it into the crook of my arm and we walked twenty feet and ran into a neighbor. Hey how’s it going, he said. Look at this watermelon! I said. Huh, cool, he said politely. Have you ever seen anything like this? I persisted, Nature made this! He looked down at it again. Wow, he said. I had succesfully bullied him into affecting excitement. He’s a Lutheran, a professor of theology, I remembered later. He was probably thinking something else made it. Plus he’s quiet. But still. C’mon!
We left them to get some mushrooms. Check out this watermelon, I said to the woman weighing the mushrooms out for me. Oh wow! she said, properly impressed. Finally. Looks like crop circles she said. Or a hieroglyph, I said. I see the virgin in there she said. The market is one of the more social events of my week. It goes without saying I think that I really ought to get out more.
It turns out it’s a virus, not a bug. It’s called watermelon mosaic virus. How it etches those mosaics onto the skin is beyond me, but my first thought was that I needed to infect every melon with the virus just to propogate the cool effects. Courtney’s first thought was uh-oh, can we still eat it? It turns out the virus “reduces the number of fruit, and retards fruit maturity, but it has no effect on fruit size, weight, or edible quality.” She was relieved that we could eat it (as was I) but sadly I will have to find another way to become a millionaire.
I want to know but still can’t find anything about how a virus can etch a watermelon skin like that.Wasn’t I just saying something about a critter at the helm? I’m not saying I belee, but dang if that don’t argue strong-ish.