Egusi

Egusi plant is native to West Africa. It belongs to the gourd family of plants. The seeds of Egusi are very popular throughout Africa and it is available throughout the year. This plant can be grown in any condition from dry savannah to tropical highlands. The appearance of the fruit is so similar to a watermelon that anyone can be misguided.

Egusi Botanical Name

The scientific name for Egusi is Citrullus lanatus.

Egusi Origin

The origin and the developmental genetics of Egusi phenotype are actually unknown.

Egusi Description

pictures of Egusi
Picture 1 - Egusi
Source - wikimedia.org

Here is a brief description of the fruit and seed of this plant-

Egusi Fruit

Unlike watermelon, the fruit of this plant is not edible. The inner side of the fruit is filled with slightly bitter and dry flesh. In some parts, it is called “bitter apple.”

Egusi Seeds

One side of the seed is rounded and the other side has a pointed tip. Each seed is covered with hard outer shell. The seeds are generally white or creamy in color. Fresh seeds are neither edible nor tastes good.

These seeds are classified according to the sharpness of edges, seed coat thickness and oil properties.

Egusi Distribution

This plant is native to West and Central Africa. It is largely grown in countries like Nigeria, Northern Namibia, Ghana and Sierra Leon.

Egusi Cultivation and Harvest

This is primarily grown for its seeds. It can be grown in barren lands or some of the driest locations around the world.

Planting Egusi is very easy. Here are some simple steps that you need to follow-

  • Choose a sheltered site in your garden.
  • Plant the seeds in a 1-2 inch deep hole.
  • Cover it with soil or dirt.
  • Water the plant regularly.
  • The seedlings will start to appear within a week or so.
  • The right time to harvest is when the stems become dry and the fruit becomes yellowish-white.

The cultivation starts around April to June i.e. in the rainy season and it is harvested in October – December.

Egusi Nutritional Facts

The small looking Egusi seeds are full of nutrients. These seeds are high with protein and oil contents as it is composed of 30% pure protein and 50% edible oil. These are an excellent source of tryptophan, methionine and arginine. It also has a small amount of calcium and carbohydrate.

Egusi Health Benefits

  • The seeds contain alphatocopherol (Vitamin E component) that helps to maintain young and smooth skin.
  • It also contains stearic, linoleic,  palmitic, and oleic acids, which are important in protecting the heart.

Egusi Uses

Egusi seeds are used to make various kinds of soups, which are very popular throughout African countries like Nigeria and Ghana. Apart from that, the seeds are generally used in many West African cuisines.

photos of Egusi
Picture 2 - Egusi Image
Source – wikimedia.org

Dry seeds are often eaten as a snack. Many processed form of Egusi seeds are available in the market and have made their way to common recipes. It is widely used to thicken stews and soups. Sometime the roasted seeds are used to make a paste for spreading on bread. These seeds are used to make very healthy cholesterol free oil.

These seeds can also be a good substitute for baby food. At times, the seeds are blend with honey and water that produces a kind of liquid, which can be used for feeding children if breast milk is not available.

In many parts of Africa, where farmers lack the access of dairy products or meat, these seeds are used as a substitute that provides them a lot of nutrition.

Egusi Other Benefits

This plant blankets the area where it grows. It stops the growth of weeds. It is also resilient to pests. These are the few reasons why farmers often intercrop this plant with other plants. If not harvested, a full grown plant remains in the ground for a long period of time. Therefore, it is rare to see the loss or wastage of this plant.

Egusi Recipes

The seeds are used to make soups. Sometimes fish, meat or vegetables are also added. It is also used in making cakes and fruit snacks. Some of the popular Egusi recipes are-

  • Agusi Soup
  • Agusi Rice Sauce
  • Banga Soup thickener

Egusi How to Store

Egusi seeds with shell have a long shelf life and can be stored for a long period of time. It is better if it is stored in an air tight container so that the moisture can be kept out from the seeds. Seeds without shell easily pick up the moisture, which affects the taste as well as the nutritional value.

Egusi Buying

These seeds are available in all the open markets around West Africa or any African food outlets around the world. It is available with or without the outer shell.

Try to buy the dried ones, since newly harvested melon seeds are not good for cooking. When buying these seeds, just make sure that the seeds are not dusty. If it is dusty, then it means the seeds older and the quality is not good enough. It will be better if you buy the seeds with outer shell, because this protects the seeds from getting contaminated.

Egusi Side Effects

If grounded seeds are not stored in a proper way, it may be infected with fungi that produce aflatoxins, which are toxic.

Egusi Other Notable Facts

Here are some interesting facts about this plant and seed-

  • In African countries, Egusi is known by many names like wild watermelon, ibara, agushi, ikpoghiri, egusi melon, neri niri etc.
  • This seed is known as Sesame in French speaking regions.
  • The branches of this plant are used to feed cattle.
  • The seeds are often mistaken with pumpkin seeds as these two looks almost similar.
  • In the 1960’s, Nigeria was producing 73000 tons Of Egusi, annually.

This plant and especially the nutritious seeds are very popular among farmers and poor people in Africa, since it is available throughout the year.

Egusi Pictures

Here are some pictures of the Egusi :

Images of Egusi
Picture 3 - Egusi Picture
Source - 1.bp.blogspot.com

Photos of Egusi

Picture 4 – Egusi Soup
Source - lh3.ggpht.com

References:

http://www.africanfoods.co.uk/egusi-soup.html

http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/seeds-seeds-seeds-egusi-the-miracle-melon/

http://jhered.oxfordjournals.org/content/95/3/268.full

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5 Responses to Egusi

  1. shashi November 24, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    sir/madam iwant egusi seed for cultivation so ie any person know the address please contact e-mail id shashi.ha.82@gmail.com iam intrested to grow in 10 hecters of land please tell me the quantity requried thank you

  2. rosemary May 18, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    your publication was quite enlightening. i wish to state here that egusi melon is different from sesame seeds . Egusi is the seeds of Citrullus lanatus a legume usually refered to as wild or bitter water melon while sesame seeds are from Sesamum indicum , a herb. In appearance the seeds of shelled egusi are usually white and are larger than those of sesame which are either white , black depending on the variety: these seeds are much smaller in size compared to egusi .Sesame seeds are also called benniseed.

  3. Bukola Olatunji December 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    whao, this is a very good article about egusi, i never knew it has numerous benefits as explained here. Please my question is that, is it advicable for fat people to eat it as it has a very high protein conten?.

  4. Name (required)klenam May 28, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    what are the reproductive health benefits?

  5. Olajuyigbe Aderonke July 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Thanks for those information on egusi melon. I’m confused on the botanical name as some articles refer to it as Colocynthis citrullus lanatus and others call it Citrullus lanatus. Which is the name of the one we consume in Nigeria? I also want to know the botanical names of the different varieties we have such as the bara, serewe, igba, etc.
    Thanks

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