About Egusi melon seeds

The Egusi plant, known in Latin as the Citrullus lanatus, is a West African fruit. It resembles a watermelon, yet what is in Egusi and what is in watermelons differs greatly. Both are suitable for use in vegetarian African food, but the pulp of the Egusi is bitter and not usually eaten. So why do West Africans love it? Because of the Egusi melon seeds. The plant has healthy seeds to eat in many different ways. This mere fact makes it popular and convenient. Below, you will discover why this is so, as well as its origins, negatives, and positives.

egusi-melon-seeds. There are great facts about the Egusi plant. Part of it is that they carry lots of healthy seeds to eat and elevate vegetarian African foods.
egusi melon seeds

Origins of the Egusi plant

They grow this plant in West and Central Africa. Although there is debate around its origins, it likely originates from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria. They call it Egwusi, with the Yoruba calling it Egusi. In Hausa, one may hear them refer to it as Agushi, and in English it is wild melon or the white-seed melon. The latter name is a great distinguisher between the Egusi plant and watermelon, or other melon plants as they look similar from the first glance.

However, as mentioned above, what is in Egusi differs from watermelons. The Egusi melon seeds are white and large, in comparison to dark brown watermelon seeds that people roast for consumption. Pumpkin seeds have a closer resemblance to Egusi seeds in color. And you can use these as a replacement for Egusi seeds in their various uses. The earthy and nutty flavor will not be as strong, but it is more convenient for those not in West Africa. Because outside this area, they may not be as easy to find and use in vegetarian African food recipes. Yet some are resourceful enough to grow them. The countries that grow the Egusi plant include Nigeria, Ghana (they call it ‘neri’), Benin (avrouda), Congo (ibara), Cameroon, and Togo.

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How to prepare these healthy seeds to eat 

You can cut open Egusi plants for their seeds, with the rest of the plant usually discarded. Here is a list of the different ways to use the seeds:

  1. A soup and stew thickener when ground into a paste with a bit of water. 
  2. To add a curdled texture to soups and stews.
  3. As a seasoning.
  4. Roasted and eaten as a snack.
  5. Ground into plant-based patties.
  6. Roasted and ground into a bread spread. 
  7. Extract edible oil from them

Egusi melon seeds are very versatile and are part of traditional vegetarian African foods in the West of Africa. Locals grow them in most climates, with the ability to grow even in drought-affected areas. They are also beneficial to the soil they grow in, attracting few pests and keeping away weeds in their proximity. Most importantly, they are healthy when consumed. 

What is in Egusi?

Nutritional content Amount
Iron1.11–49.54 mg/100 g
Copper0.26–18.58 mg/100 g 
Zinc0.75–22.09 mg/100 g
Selenium12.2 µg/100 g
Egusi melon seeds nutrition

This information is derived from studies conducted on Egusi melon seeds. However, there is minimal information on these Egusi seeds as there has been little study on them, despite how beneficial they are.

 Research shows that they also include Vitamins B1, B2, and Niacin. The minerals are not only those stated in the table either, but include phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Due to the small information, it is difficult to compare these healthy seeds to eat when you cook and when raw. 

egusi seeds-nutrition
egusi seeds nutrition

Risks and side effects of consuming Egusi seeds

Egusi melon seeds are healthy seeds to eat. We see this in studies centered around their health benefits. The protein content is most notable. Research has shown that high levels of protein allow the use of Egusi seeds in vegetarian African foods as a meat protein substitute. It allows for good cell health and maybe a solution to the malnourished population of children, particularly in Nigeria. 

As the seeds contain healthy unsaturated fat, Egusi seeds are good for regulating blood sugar. They also reduce bad cholesterol and the risks that come with it, such as cardiovascular problems. 

However, despite being healthy seeds to eat, there has been concern in research that melon seeds are prone to deterioration when they are stored. This is because of possible fungal infections if they are stored in the wrong conditions. Such conditions include ones with moisture and/or high temperatures, encouraging the production of mycotoxins. Further research shows that exposure to these toxins can lead to problems such as kidney damage and DNA mutations. 

However, you can avoid this problem can be avoided by ensuring adequate storage methods are used. For example, they are best stored in their original seed form, not ground or peeled. 

In summary, Egusi seeds are very useful in everyday cooking and nutrition. They may not be as popular as one would expect from such easy-to-grow and beneficial fruits, but the populations that know their value make use of them well. 

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