With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, watermelons will soon be back in the limelight. But as you enjoy the sweet, juicy fruit, you might end up worrying about that disturbing threat you heard as a kid: “Don’t swallow the seeds, or a watermelon will grow in your stomach!”
But how much truth is there to this warning? Can a watermelon seed grow in your stomach?
What Do Seeds Need to Grow?
There are three simple things that any seed needs to start growing, or germinating: the right temperature, a source of water, and a good place to grow. How do they know when to grow, and which way to go, is somewhat more complicated.
Seeds use a process known as geotaxis to sense the direction in which gravity is pulling them, and orientate their shoot and roots accordingly. Once the shoot breaks the surface of the soil, they start growing towards the nearest light source, which is known as phototaxis.
The process by which the seeds know when to start growing is programmed at the genetic level, although scientists are still studying exactly how this works.
What Are the Conditions in Your Stomach?
Simply put, the inside of your stomach is not a good place for a plant to start growing. It is dark, but more importantly, it is filled with a variety of acids and enzymes specifically produced to break down organic matter.
The main component of your gastric juice, as this mixture is sometimes known, is hydrochloric acid. This acid is so strong it can melt through metal, and a seed would have little chance of surviving long enough to germinate.
Even worse for the seed’s chances, your stomach regularly opens and closes the passageway to your intestines, known as the gastric sphincter. So, if the seed was somehow able to avoid being dissolved by the corrosive soup it was sloshing about in, it would also have to stop itself from being flushed out into your colon.
So, Can A Watermelon Seed Grow in Your Stomach?
After reading this, you’ve probably worked out the answer for yourself by now. No, there is effectively no chance that a watermelon seed, or any other seed for that matter, would be able to survive in your stomach for long enough to start to grow. This regularly shared warning is very much a myth.
Where Did the Myth Come From?
Similar to the old favorite of sending your new employee out to find a tin of elbow grease, this myth has been around for a good while. It’s probably impossible to work out exactly where it got started, though it is possible to guess how the myth became so widespread.
Back in 1992, there was an episode of the children’s TV show “Rugrats” called “The Inside Story”. In that episode, Chuckie, one of the program’s toddler protagonists, panics after being told the myth by his friend’s grandfather as he is in the process of eating a slice of watermelon, seeds and all.
The gang then go on an exciting adventure inside Chuckie’s body, inspired by the Sci-Fi classic “Fantastic Voyage”, in order to save him before the fruit starts to grow. There’s a good chance that this is the source of the myth’s modern popularity.
Is Swallowing Watermelon Seeds Bad for You?
Not at all! The raw seeds are not toxic, and they definitely won’t be growing in your stomach. You can swallow as many as you want without worrying at all.
Scientists have even debunked another related seed-swallowing myth. They conducted a study which showed that the risk of the seeds getting caught in your appendix is very low. It only occurred in one case out of the entire study, which was 0.05% of the people taking part.
That said, there are actually a number of nutritional benefits to be gained from eating the seeds after roasting or sprouting. You might want to think about hanging on to them after finishing your fruity treat, rather than just throwing them away or spitting them out at your unsuspecting friends.
Nutritional Benefits of Watermelon Seeds
First of all, roasted watermelon seeds can make a tasty snack, and work well as an alternative to potato chips and other less healthy treats. They are crunchy, low in calories compared to those chips, and taste great with a sprinkle of salt and a dash of olive oil. Try a handful mixed in with your next salad for a flavorsome extra crunch.
Even better, they are rich in magnesium, iron, several B vitamins, and healthy fats. The plentiful iron content is especially good news for vegetarians and vegans!
However, to reap the best nutritional rewards from eating the seeds, you should try sprouting them. While roasting the seeds can reduce the nutritional content, sprouting actually increases the benefits. Plus, once they’re sprouted and dried, watermelon seeds are an excellent source of protein.
How to Roast Watermelon Seeds
First rinse the seeds, drain the water, and then pat them dry. Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, and heat your oven to 325°F. Pop the tray in for fifteen to twenty minutes, and wait for the seeds to turn crispy and golden brown. Alternatively, you can toss the seeds with some olive oil and salt, and then toast them in a skillet.
How to Sprout Watermelon Seeds
Soak the seeds overnight in a jar, such as a 1-quart mason jar, and cover the neck with a cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. This allows for air circulation and water drainage. Keep the jar somewhere warm.
In the morning, drain the water through the cloth, pour some more in, and swish the seeds around to rinse them, then drain it again. You’ll want to keep the seeds moist, so rinse again two or three times a day. It should take just a few days for the sprouts to become visible.
Next, dry the sprouted seeds in a dehydrator, an oven, or even just direct sunlight. Once dried, your homemade, healthy, and nutritious little snacks are ready to be enjoyed.
The Easy-to-Swallow Truth
So, to recap, can a watermelon seed grow in your stomach?
Contrary to popular belief, and despite what your dastardly relatives may have said to terrify you at your family BBQ, no. There is no chance of a watermelon seed sprouting in your stomach. Now you can enjoy this refreshing fruit with peace of mind! You can even keep the seeds for an extra nutrient boost to your diet, if you’re up to roasting or sprouting them yourself.