Last May, the director of the vegetable research institute at the Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science told the media that the Chinese government does not encourage farmers to use plant hormones on watermelons because watermelons “are very sensitive.”
The Chinese had learned about watermelons in a hurry lately because watermelons all over the Chinese countryside had been exploding “like land mines.” The British media reported that Chinese watermelon fields were “erupting by the acre,” with melons blasting apart one by one. These reports, of course, intrigued the West. The U.S. National Watermelon Association reacted quickly and soberly. “I have never seen this phenomenon,” said its executive director.
But getting accurate information about fruit in China is not easy. The Fruit Industry Association of Guangdong tried but failed, informing the media that “most ‘imported’ fruits are grown in China.” And the Chinese hastily pointed out that 10 percent of all American watermelons also explode (they did not say why).
Eventually the fruit-consuming public learned that the sensitive Chinese watermelons were exploding because they had been over-exposed to forchlorfenuron. Forchlorfeuron is a plant hormone that does wonders for the size of the average Chinese watermelon when applied at the right time under the right conditions. When mishandled, the hormone gets carried away and decimates its host melon in a pulpy, seedy, gooey melon spectacle. The Chinese exploding watermelon farmers were apparently all first-time watermelon entrepreneurs and perhaps they did not follow the proper watermelon hormone directions.
But we can’t criticize the Chinese for using it. The U.S. government allows farmers to use it on grapes. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that consuming a florchlorfeuron-treated grape will blow up a human being. But consider wearing a face guard next time you visit your local winery.
The Chinese aren’t the only ones with exploding food experience. The Nazis experimented with it to try to break the Britons. The best idea by far was the experimental exploding Smedley’s English Grown Plums can. The Nazis also came up with combustive chocolate bars and incendiary frozen eggs. History does not record whether the Nazis deployed these weapons.
I am sure I am not the only who finds the idea of exploding fruits and vegetables delightful. I regret that I was not standing in a Chinese watermelon field during the May bombardments and I would have liked to be on the anti-exploding-Smedley’s-plums detail in British intelligence.
So I did some research and learned how to make my own exploding fruit extravaganza at home. You can make a lemon explode by stuffing it full of mints and dropping it into a cup of club soda. You can obliterate an orange by putting it in a microwave without piercing its rind. You can annihilate any fruit cake by saturating it in a healthy volume of rum and baking it in the oven. Apply more rum as needed. Etc.
As for the Chinese watermelons, the farmers fed them to their pigs. Pork lo mein, anyone?
Kim Egan is Partner in the firm DLA Piper LLP
You can also follow her here on Twitter: http://twitter.com/kkegan