Airlift ends 'ice cream melons' shortage

Two-colored watermelons said to taste like ice cream are up for sale again in Shanghai.
Ti Gong

Two-colored watermelons said to taste like ice cream are up for sale again in Shanghai.

The special watermelons, developed by local researchers, are back on the market after 400 were airlifted to Shanghai from northwest China’s Qinghai province. Locally grown versions sold out last month.

However, a bite of these watermelons doesn’t come cheap.

Due to their special requirements concerning climate, soil and organic fertilizer, the two-colored watermelons are sold at 200 yuan (US$30) each.

“The watermelon is special not only because of its color,” said Gu Weihong, a researcher of Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences who developed it. “It’s also particularly juicy.”

Ordinary watermelons, he added, require some chewing, “but this one feels like it’s melting in your mouth. That’s why we also call it ice cream watermelon.”

Gu first developed his watermelon version in 1998. But because of technology and commercialization restrictions, it was not widely promoted.

Last year, a company from southern China’s Zhuhai bought the technology from the scientific institute, while Gu and the institute provide technical support with production.

Gu said the watermelons picking season in Shanghai and nearby Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces only lasted a month from the beginning of May. Because of the scorching temperatures along the Yangtze River area this year, the yields in the three areas slumped from an expected 40,000 to 15,000.

To ensure supplies for a longer period this year, the researchers and the company set up bases in Qinghai and north China’s Heilongjiang province where it is cooler.

“Qinghai also has a big difference in temperature between day time and night,” Gu said. “So the taste of the watermelons produced there are even sweeter than locally grown ones.”

With the new production bases, the two-colored watermelon season will run from May to the middle of September.

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