Why Armenians Call The Watermelon “Dzemerook”

Posted by Hovik Torkomyan

The origins of the watermelon is a debated topic, as there is no consensus on where this delicious summer fruit exactly comes from. Some scientists believe it to be originated in southern Africa, while others point to another region on the continent – Egypt. There is evidence that the Egyptians began growing watermelon around 4.000 years ago.

One of the newest discoveries points to Libya, where archeologists found watermelon seeds and other fruits at a 5.000-year-old settlement.Writings from 400 B.C. to 500 A.D. indicate that the watermelon spread from northeastern Africa to Mediterranean countries. Reaching Armenia, it has become an integral part of its cuisine and culture.

In Armenia, the watermelon was even used as a medicine, as Armenian food culture is deeply embedded with medical beliefs and prescriptions for health. There is a folk story emphasizing the health-giving properties of the watermelon, a claimed cleanser for the entire body, with an explanation of the Armenian name for watermelon – dzmerook:

The servants of the medieval Armenian King Gagik noticed a mysterious horned snake by the palace. The snake was trying to shed its horns. The king’s servants cut the snakes horns and, thus, saved it. In gratitude, the next day the snake brought a seed and left it by the palace. Soon a big, strange fruit grew from the seed. The servants decided to test the unknown fruit and offered it to an old man who was on the verge of death. A miracle occurred. The old man not only recovered, but he also felt better than ever before.

The king was next to try the natural medicine. He also felt fortified. Since then, Armenians call the gift of the grateful snake, the watermelon, “not-die” – that is -“chmerook”. With the passage of time, the letter “ch” became “dz”, thus dzemerook.

Sources:

  • National Geographic. The 5,000-Year Secret History of the Watermelon.
  • David Underwood (2006). Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore. Lulu.com. pp. 143–. ISBN 978-1-4116-9865-9.

 

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