Watermelon is a favorite summer food of millions of Americans. Oklahomans love it, as much as anyone else. One particular lawmaker, Democrat Joe Dorman, liked watermelons so much that in 2007, he attempted to get them designated as the official state fruit of Oklahoma.
He was willing to write the legislation and he had friends who would support him. Those friendships were bipartisan, and included a potential sponsor in the Senate, Republican Don Barrington. There was only one problem. Oklahoma already had a state fruit – the strawberry, which had earned the designation only two years prior.
Attempting to pull the status of the strawberry after only two years would have seemed a bit petty… and undoubtedly rankled the representatives of Stilwell, which had held an annual Strawberry Festival for more than a half century.
Considering their dilemma, the pair of Dorman and Barrington eventually came up with a perfect political solution.
In April 2007, the watermelon became the official state vegetable of Oklahoma. Their reasoning was that watermelons are genetically related to gourds and cucumbers, and those are vegetables.
They’re NOT vegetables, of course; they’re fruits which are typically eaten as vegetables due to their lack of natural sugars. But never let science get in the way of politics. Particularly botany, which often seems to be relegated to the red-headed-stepchild of the hard sciences anyway.
The obvious problem with the gross scientific inaccuracy led to a repeal effort in 2015. And that repeal effort failed. Watermelon remains the state vegetable, even though it is not, nor has it ever been, a vegetable.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite vegetable… or fruit that is typically prepared like a vegetable?