Watermelons Used to Look Very, Very Different

History (and crop breeding) really did a number on the fruit, apparently.

Frank RotheGetty Images

You've seen them in . You've seen them made into . You may have even seen one . But we bet you didn't know what watermelons used to look like — and they weren't too pretty.

surfaced a 17th-century painting by Giovanni Stanchi that shows the rather odd-looking ancestor of the watermelon we know and love today. Take a look:

Christie Images LTD

We think it kind of looks like a squash. However strange in appearance, horticulture professor says that the melon probably tasted fine, pointing out that melons were often eaten fresh or turned into wine during the time period of this painting. 

So, what changed? Centuries of breeding changed the shape, flesh color, and seed content within watermelons. During this process, this early ancestor isn't the only variety of melon lost to the ages. In a published in the scintillating-sounding journal Economic Botany, G.K. Parris wrote that "Most of the varieties 40 to 50 years ago have disappeared, such as McIver, Phinney's Early, Kolb Gem, Duke Jones, Ruby Gem, Green and Gold, Mountain Sprout, Mammouth Ironclad, Ruby Gold, Sugarloaf and Cole's Early."

While we can see why something with the name "Mountain Sprout" hasn't endured, aren't you curious about Ruby Gem or Sugarloaf?

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