Image description: An illustration of a round watermelon and slice, surrounded by various gardening tools, against a background of a sprouting field. End ID
Image description: An illustration of a round watermelon and slice, surrounded by various gardening tools, against a background of a sprouting field. End ID

Illustration by Dulce Pop-Bonini

Why Square Watermelons?

What square watermelons tell us about our mindsets.

Jan 7, 2024

The sphere is considered the perfect shape by some mathematicians and certainly by all physicists. It is why the physicists’ joke “let’s assume the horse is spherical” exists. Almost anything can easily be approximated to a sphere and a sphere can be then approximated to a single point in space and from then on one can find some very optimistic results about the aerodynamics, motion through space, even aesthetics of pretty much everything. But a square is an interesting shape, too. A square, as can be quite easily mathematically proven, is what any regular structure's most optimized shape is. Hence the debate: what is wrong with spherical watermelons and why do we need square ones?
It turns out that it is a misconception that square watermelons are genetically-modified species. It is actually a way of growing the plants in glass boxes, so that as they grow in size and ripen they take the shape of the box. There are entire internet forums on how anybody can grow their own square watermelon. But… what for?
A square watermelon has the same nutritional and taste characteristics of a regular round watermelon. The only added value is the challenge of growing it. And that value is also expressed in the significantly increased price of the shaped fruit.
The process of growing a square watermelon has been quite glamorized, to some it is even a sort of horticultural art. It has its own lore, too: it originates from a specific region in Japan and it is that region’s pride and joy. Eating square watermelon has made it to the bucket lists of many tourists visiting Japan.
A square watermelon is nothing but the pinnacle of human curiosity and the “Why not?” mindset. But that mindset is not all good. Especially when applied to the market. It is this mindset that has turned the free market into a casino. As capitalism reigns barely regulated and any and every business model dooms us to the consequences of climate change, the “Why not?” approach to entrepreneurship only manages to further deplete valuable resources, including intellectual power. While the engineers and designers and marketing directors are busy with creating the next only-for-the-lore product, millions of people are suffering from displacement, food insecurity and poverty. Funds that can be allocated to research and development of technologies that can feed all of humanity are instead spent on making shaped fruit.
Square watermelons themselves are not the root of all evil in the world, but they can be used as an example of how much our focus as consumers and producers has shifted from serving a purpose and chasing a goal of leaving a legacy of kindness to running after profit and monetizing every aspect of our lives, even dreams and surrealist ideas. Or has our mindset ever been different?
Yana Peeva is Senior Columns Editor. Email them at
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