Widely grown in the Shaphatou desert, China, but the locals put up a sign prohibiting tourists from eating this strange watermelon.
When the weather is hot, eating juicy and sweet watermelon pieces is probably what everyone wants. Found for the first time at the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamun, 3,300 years ago, it proves that watermelon has been a favorite food of people since ancient times. However, in the hot desert of China’s Shaphatou, there is a strange type of watermelon that no one dares to pick even with a burning thirst.
Shaphatou is located on the southeast edge of the Tengger Desert (China’s fourth largest desert), in the Ningxia Autonomous Region. Thanks to the unique and magnificent landscape, this place has become a place that attracts a large number of tourists to visit every year. In 2008, Shaphatou was evaluated as one of “50 most unique landscapes of Hoang Ha” at the Hoang Ha Tourism Conference.
Besides the “sea” of spreading, rolling sand, in Shaphatou there are also rivers, mountains and oases. If you are lucky, when you come here, you also have the opportunity to experience splendid and mysterious illusions. In the river basin, the most unique is the sheepskin raft – the oldest means of transport and cargo of the Yellow River. In addition, the mountain areas and oases are also considered as conservation areas for rare and precious animals, which are on the National list of protected species.
With such terrain, it is not unusual that in Shaphatou people grow many different varieties of watermelon. However, most of these watermelon fields are marked with prohibition signs, reminding tourists not to pick them and eat them. The reason is that the type of watermelon in the desert in Shaphatou is not really a real watermelon.
Toxicity of Watermelon Shaphatou
Normally, the watermelon we eat has a thin skin, the flesh inside is red, spongy, watery and can be eaten directly after adding. However, this type of watermelon in Shaphatou cannot be eaten “raw” like that.
Botanists have found that Shaphatou watermelon contains 4 types of saponins, 3 types of iron compounds and 2 types of alkaloids. When these substances combine, they create extremely strong toxicity, which can be fatal in humans. In addition, although there is not much water in its intestines, the water concentrated in the vines is highly corrosive, when in contact with the skin, it will cause burning and burning. Therefore, the locals call this watermelon “poison watermelon”.
Not only that, their shells also have a lot of fluff. This fine hair contains a high alkaline content, if it is accidentally touched, it will be extremely itchy.
There have been many cases where because of unbearable heat and thirst in the desert, many animals have ventured to eat “poisonous” watermelon and as a result kidney failure, even death on the spot. The locals said that next to the poison melon trees there are always a lot of animal carcasses.
Bitter fruit flesh, not good to eat
To study this watermelon more closely, scientists ventured to try a small amount of fruit flesh (very little, not enough to endanger life) and commented that it was spongy, hollow, hard. , with many seeds, is no different from eating the intestines of an old gourd.
Moreover, because the flesh of the fruit contains many alkaline substances, it has a bitter taste like bitter melon (bitter melon). Curious animals that eat them will lose their lives, if they are lucky to survive, they will stay away because of that bitter taste.
Like other plants in the desert, the “poisonous” watermelon also exists and develops based on the mechanism of water retention. But because they do not grow spines like cacti, they can only defend themselves by evolving to become extremely poisonous.
Can be used as medicine
If you wonder why it is poisonous, but farmers still grow it, the answer is that it is also valuable as medicine and to block wind and sand in the desert.
It is known to be a very good medicinal herb in curing stomach ailments. Its medicinal properties are concentrated mainly in the seeds. Since ancient times, many people have known to dry and soak melon seeds as a laxative.
However, according to modern scientific studies, it is recommended that it should only be used instead of biological pesticides to protect crops and avoid environmental pollution.
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