Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #115203

Title: LYCOPENE CONTENT IN WATERMELON DIFFERS AMONG RED-FLESHED WATERMELON CULTIVARS

Author
item Perkins Veazie, Penelope
item Collins, Julie
item Pair, Sammy
item Roberts, Warren

Submitted to: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/12/2000
Publication Date: 8/1/2001
Citation: Perkins Veazie, P.M., Collins, J.K., Pair, S.D., Roberts, W. 2001. Lycopene content in watermelon differs among red-fleshed watermelon cultivars. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. 81:983-987.

Interpretive Summary: Lycopene is a red pigment found only in plant material that is correlated with reduced incidence of some cancers. Relatively few fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, of which tomato is the best known. Unlike tomato, little is known about the variability of lycopene content in watermelon varieties. This study was done to determine the levels of lycopene in many varieties, both new and old, and in fruit grown commercially for market distribution. Lycopene was found only in red- fleshed varieties and ranged from 3.5 to 7.6 mg per 100 g tissue, depending on variety. Commercial watermelons varied in lycopene content with growing season, with lycopene contents of 4.7 to 6.9 mg per 100 g tissue. Results indicate that watermelon has as much or more lycopene compared to tomato and that amounts depend on both variety and growing conditions.

Technical Abstract: Carotenoids, specifically b-carotene and lycopene, have antioxidant properties that may reduce the incidence of certain cancers. Watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai] is a natural source of lycopene with an average reported value of 48.7 ug g**-1, based on composite samples taken from retail produce. This study demonstrated the variability of lycopene content from eleven watermelon cultivars representing seedless, open-pollinated, and hybrid types, grown at one location, and the lycopene content of hybrid and seedless melons, representing seasonal production periods, from commercial shipments. Tristimulus colorimeter readings from cut melons were compared to amounts of extracted lycopene from the same melons. Lycopene content varied widely among cultivars and types; four cultivars had mean values greater than 65.0 ug g**-1 lycopene. Seedless types sampled tended to have higher amount of lycopene (>50.0 g g**-1) than seeded cultivars. Watermelons from commercial shipments showed changes in lycopene content with production season. Tristimulus colorimeter a* and chroma values were positively correlated with lycopene values, but linear or quadratic regressions of colorimeter data to lycopene values were not significant.