Watermelons are a popular fruit of Greek summer, but they tend to be a bit unwieldy in shape and heavy to carry.
But a farmer of Neo Agioneri in the Kilkis area of northern Greece has produced mini melons that “fit in a woman’s evening bag, since some are slightly larger than a lipstick,” as he jokes.
Panagiotis Yiltidis, who is also known for raising fruit and vegetables under the strains of classical music, said he took a chance when an older man in Israel sent him seeds.
Speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency radio station Praktoreio 104.9FM, he explains, “The people there are devoted to cultivating watermelons and melons, and I was initially doubtful when I tried it. But this year I see we are on the right path.”
The mini melons are between a walnut and a tennis ball in size, and weigh no more than 200g. They look like a watermelon on the exterior, but are soft inside with seeds arranged in the middle like regular-sized melons.
“A few days ago I had collected nearly 20 mini melons and was delivering something else in a restaurant of Halkidiki peninsula,” the farmer adds. “I showed them to the owner and he became enthusiastic about them, as did a store owner selling organic products next door.”
Yiltidis notes he enjoys experimenting and looking for either new seeds or traditional but forgotten ones. “I’m happy to have the opportunity to try them out in my field and see them grow,” he adds.
He does acknowledge, though, that cultivating mini melons is not profitable because the fruit needs to produce extensive foliage in order to produce a small melon of up to 150g.
His farming practices have become a focus of researchers at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki while a television station in Germany wants to record how watermelons grow ‘listening’ to classical music.
Greece ranks sixth in watermelon exports
Greece now ranks sixth in the entire world market in watermelon exports, according to data from the United Nations’ COMTRADE database and the EU’s comprehensive TARIC database, which was developed by hortoinfo.es.
Greece now produces an impressive 204.46 million kilos (450,757,141 pounds) of watermelons, corresponding to 5.6 percent of the total exports of the succulent fruit across the globe with a price of 0.273 euros per kilo. The nation of Spain is once again consolidating its own position as the world’s largest exporter of watermelon.
The total amount of watermelons exported by all countries during 2020 was 3,699.12 million kg of which 839.62 were exported from Spain (22.88 percent of total exports), followed by Mexico, with 593.89 million kilos (16.19 percent), Italy with 306.61 million kilos (8.36 percent) and Morocco with 241.94 million kilos (6.59 percent).
The United States ranks fifth in the most recent figures from the past year, with 228.94 million kg (6.24 percent), followed by Greece with 204.46 million kg (5.6 percent), Guatemala with 115.02 (3.13 percent) , The Netherlands 113.33 million kg (3.09 percent), Brazil with 107.85 million kg (2.94 percent) and Vietnam in tenth place with 97.55 million kg (2.66 percent).