Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seed of doubt, kernel of truth

As a sequel to my previous post, “Curse all seeds!” I’m happy to report that the Slate Explainer has answered “a version” of my seedless watermelon question . . . here. My thanks to the Explainer!

For reference, my original question was: Why does so-called seedless watermelon have seeds? Specifically, the little white “seedlets.”

The Explainer only answers my question directly in the Bonus Explainer at the end of the article, and then only briefly, but I won’t fault them for that. It’s kind of a thrill to get a published response at all, and they offer a detailed answer to the question they are more interested in: what is the difference between seed types/colors in watermelons?

Regrettably, I have never specifically wondered about the difference between white seeds and black seeds in a “regular” watermelon. So for me, the entertainment value of this question is about on the level of, say, how common is premarital sex at BYU? Or, what is the congressional gym like?

I was more interested in the socio-economic ramifications of what I considered a biological oddity.* People buy seedless fruit for the perceived masticatory convenience. So why market an item as “seedless” when it has some seed-like elements, even if they are only “hard seed coats”? Honestly, does it make much difference to my mouth whether I have to spit out mature seeds or empty seed coats?

I’ve been told, “why don’t you just swallow them?” Well, that’s not really the point, is it? For people who don’t care either way, it’s easy to recommend a “grin and bear it” mentality. And if I were some soft, dandyish type who was born with a silver ladle up my petard, accustomed to suckling on the teat of an overfed nursemaid, I could see this as a valid point. But I’m not bemoaning a world that allows people to be victimized by the arduous chore of watermelon-eating. I’m just annoyed by the lack of clarity, consistency, transparency, whatever you want to call it.

Maybe I’m the only one who’s bothered by it. And I admit that my intellectual curiosity about this far outstrips my gustatory qualms about seedless watermelon.

But no, I’m still not swallowing.

* I’ve also enjoyed reading about the genetics behind growing a seedless watermelon, which is the triploid (three sets of chromosomes) hybrid of a diploid plant and a tetraploid plant.


Henry said...

"But no, I’m still not swallowing."

Ugh, I realize we're talking about seed here, but do they have to use such graphic language? "Infertile"? "Sterile"? I'm trying to eat here!

Czardoz said...

Well then maybe nobody should have suggested to me that I swallow in the first place! These people knew what dangerous game they were playing with me.

Alexis said...

Maybe it's a hunch or maybe it's stalker Googling, but it's my guess that the sources for this Explainer, Stephen King and Todd Wehner, are heavily-mustachioed, middle-aged men that study reproduction much more often than they have the opportunity to be agents of it. As such, they might have tendencies to overrepresent sexuality in their responses to the author: smart, young, fecund Brahna Siegelberg.

Or, to avoid argument ad hominem, they might be using the field-specific language, which, just a guess, probably doesn't include much about swallowing.

Czardoz said...

You wrote all that stuff just so you could say "ad hominem," didn't you?