One of our loyal blog readers passed on this interesting article about exploding watermelons in China. Seems that Chinese farmers have been overapplying a synthetic growth regulator which has led to the of proliferation of plump pepos (gotta love alliteration!). Of course the media has “blown” this out of proportion with action verbs like “explode” and “erupt”, when what’s actually happening is that the melons are merely splitting. (It’s a pretty boring video if you take time to watch it.)
Ok. This isn’t to defend the practice of misapplying any chemical. But the fear generated is obvious in the comments on this video – just scroll through them. The growth regulator in question is forchlorfenuron – a cytokinin legal in the United States and approved for use in very low concentrations on kiwifruit and grapes to enhance fruit size, fruit set, and cluster weight. It’s been approved for use in the US since 2004 and has been tested extensively prior to that approval for human and environmental safety.
Fruit split happens all the time during ripening. I’m sure most of you have seen this yourself, like when your tomatoes are overirrigated or cherries get unseasonal rain. And it can happen when growth regulators – natural or synthetic – are misapplied. But the fruit isn’t dangerous. It just looks bad, and might not taste that great, either.
There are lots of things to worry about out there. But growth regulators used in fruit production really aren’t one of them.