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Egusi gourd is identical in appearance to a watermelon, but the flesh inside is bitter and yellow or green instead of sweet and red. Some even call the fruit “bitter apple” because of its sour taste. Egusi are grown predominantly for their interior seeds which are similar in size to small pumpkin seeds; oval shaped, white on the inside with a light tan shell. The plant of the gourd is a creeping annual with hairy stems, forked tendrils and three-lobed leaves. Egusi seeds are similar in flavor to pumpkin seeds.
Egusi seeds are available year-round.
Citrullus lanatus, or Egusi is a wild gourd native to West Africa and is a relative of the watermelon. The seeds are harvested from the gourd and used as a food source and the fruit is not eaten. The plant is highly resilient to pests and diseases and is used as a blanket crop to help reduce the growth of unwanted weeds. The plant is easy to grow and can thrive in barren and dry locations throughout the world, making it a possible source of food for farmers in areas that lack ideal growing conditions.
Egusi seeds are comprised of 50% oil, 78% of which is unsaturated fatty acid, and 35% protein. The seeds are rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and alpha-tocopherol, in addition to palmitic, stearic, linoleic, and oleic acids. Minerals found in Egusi seeds include phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, iron, zinc, manganese and copper.
Egusi seeds are used as a thickener for soups and stews throughout West Africa. Ground into a paste with a small amount of water, Egusi seeds are added to sauces and soups towards the end of cooking to create a curdled, scrambled egg like texture that is neutral in flavor. It is often added to leafy vegetables with other seasonings. The seeds can also be roasted as a snack, ground and formed into patties, roasted into a spread like peanut butter, or fermented and added to soups or stews. To store keep Egusi seeds in a cool dry place, seeds will keep up to a year.
Egusi derives its name from Igbo and Yoruba language, and translates to menan "melon." It is also known in West Africa as Wild watermelon, Ibara, Agushi, Ikpoghiri, Neri Niri or Egusi melon.
Egusi is native to West and Central Africa, and can be found especially in Nigeria, Namibia, Ghana and Sierra Leon. It is the biological ancestor of watermelon.
Recipes that include Egusi. One is easiest, three is harder.