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Egusi, the Organic West African Miracle Food

I have always loved egusi more than any other Yoruba soup. If I could eat it with my other Naija favorite, plantain (raw, baked, fried, boiled), every day, I’d be in heaven.  But it tastes much better with eba (dried, fermented cassava) or iyan (pounded yam)

But what is Egusi, really?

Egusi seeds

Egusi seeds. Scientific name: Citrullus Lanatus

 

Egusi (“Citrullus Lanatus”) is a melon that looks exactly like watermelon on the outside, but completely different on the inside–with it’s bitter white flesh and seeds. It grows wild in warm, arid regions of Africa and Asia. The people of “Nigeria” and “Congo” call it wild watermelon, Egusi melon, or Ibara. Egusi can grow just about anywhere: humid gullies, dry savannahs, tropical highlands. This makes it a great source of food for farmers in even the worst conditions.

Eguis is composed of nearly 50% healthy fats and 30% protein. Whoa! Nutrition! A great dietary supplement that can be a staple in a vegetarian diet. The seeds taste a lot like pumpkin seed

Ways to eat Egusi Seeds:

  1. Shell and eat as a snack
  2. Soak, ferment or boil and add to soup or stew
  3. Roast and ground into nut butter (tastes like pumpkin seeds)
  4. Soaked or boiled seeds can be ground and meshed into high-protein patties
  5. Baby food: blend seeds with water and fresh cane juice or natural sweetener and use when breast milk is unavailable (in areas where malnutrition is prevalent)

Growing & Storing

The egusi plant is highly resilient to pests and diseases (reminds me of hemp). It also blankets the ground as it grows so–especially when planted with other foods–it helps to reduce the growth of weeds. Ko nii tete baje, as Yorubas would say, or, it takes long for egusi to spoil: in the field or on the shelf (dried seeds). The mouth watering egusi I ate all last week was made with seeds I’ve had for two years.

Egusi, Scientific Name Citrullus Colocynthis

Egusi, Scientific Name Citrullus Lanatus

Health Benefits of Egusi

Some have purported that egusi is so high in cholesterol that we should cut back on it. I say, nonsensical nonsense. Fela would slap you.

Egusi is rich in protein, fat and vitamins A, B1, B2, C and alpha-tocopherol, a component of vitamin E. This alpha-tocopherol helps to maintain young-looking skin and good fertility.
It is made up of 30 – 40 % protein, and about the same proportion of fat/oil. 78 % of the fat is unsaturated fatty acid, which is free of cholesterol and protective to the heart.
In terms of vitamins, it contains .
It also contains palmitic, stearic, linoleic and oleic acids, which help to protect the heart; and a very small amount of carbohydrate and calcium.

The Way My Mother Taught Me

Rather than frying the clumps of blended egusi as some do to get the chunks, I was taught to blend the ground egusi with fresh onion and water, then pour that into the almost-cooked soup. Heavenly.

My Egusi Soup Recipe & Video [not mine]

Ingredients

Egusi Soup by Imperial Mandela Rose

Egusi Soup by Imperial Mandela Rose

Original recipe makes 6 to 8 servings { You’ll notice I’m not a stickler for exact measurements. Just make the food and eat it doggone it. I use organic ingredients, but it will taste quite decent with non organic. }

  • 1-2 cups Egusi seeds ( or ground egusi ) { This depends on how much egusi you want in your soup. I like big chunks of egusi “meat” in my soup…}
  • 1 1/2 pounds wild fish and/or dried fish { I’ve used tilapia, looking forward to trying salmon. You can use whatever protein you want here. TVP is deadly, so not that. I’m working on my vegan recipe…}
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil ( or coconut oil or sesame oil or other healthy cooking oil. Nigerians prefer peanut oil though )
  • 2 large organic tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped { I used a ton of onion in my cooking. You can get away with one, depending on your taste. Vidallia onions make everything heavenly. }
  • 2 habanero peppers, seeded and minced
  • I Tsp. iru (locust beans)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cube Rapunzel vegetable bouillon { Maggi and knorr will kill you slowly, just leave the stuff alone already }
  • Himalayan pink salt { Or whatever salt you use. This is the healthiest salt I–along with most of the world–know of }
  • 1 pound fresh organic spinach, washed and chopped { If using frozen spinach, I suggest baking it or heating it in such a way that the water will evaporate so it doesn’t water down your soup. Just long enough to lose the water, don’t let the stuff dry out o… Also better than cooking and then having to squeeze out the water and losing valuable chlorophyll, you know me…}

Directions

  1. Pre-soak the fish in 2 T. lemon juice and water for as long as possible ( 2 hrs to 10 hrs in fridge); When fish has lost the fish smell, sautee 1 cup chopped onions, seasonings ( curry, basil, thyme, allspice, himalayan pink salt ) and then throw the drained fish on it to simmer.
  2. If using dried fish, start boiling it now.
  3. If using frozen spinach, turn oven to “broil” and place in oven on tray for 10 minutes or until water is dry and spinach is still very green. (if using fresh spinach, ignore this step)
  4. Place egusi seeds or grounded egusi in a blender with half as much water and half of an onion. Blend until mixture is thick and creamy. Should be a little thicker than hummus. Set aside.
  5. Blend tomatoes, onions, pepper and water until it has a smooth consistency, no chunks.
  6. Pour this blend on the simmering fish once it is cooked, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Let it cook until the tomatoes no longer smell fresh and look bright red. The sauce should transition to a deeper orange-tinted red.
  7. Add the iru.
  8. Add the dried fish. If you were going to use crayfish or shrimp, (I’m not big on these) this would be a good time to add them.
  9. Add fresh spinach and let it sink into the soup.
  10. Then pour blended egusi mixture distributed evenly over the soup.
  11. Let it cook until about 10 minutes or until the egusi becomes firm chunks of deliciousness.
  12. ENJOY with eba, organic pounded yam, amala, baked plantain, quinoa, millet, brown rice, you get the idea =)

If you’re going to use the video below, I would suggest replacing with healthier ingredients as listed above.

Buy bottled egusi soup??? Your call.

Politics of Food

Egusi and other richly nutritious natural foods of Africa are not safe with multinationals coming to Africa for our land. Let’s pray our natural foods are not contaminated and destroyed by the international efforts to introduce more pesticides and GMOs to the most fertile soil in the world. Speaking of genocide…damaging Africa’s land and our ability to produce millenia-old food naturally would be highly effective over the long run. :(

Additional Sources

http://agro-hub.com/portfolio-view/egusi/#.Ue7S5I21Guo

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/egusi-soup/

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

http://www.9jafoodie.com/2012/03/yoruba-style-egusi-soup/

http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/natural-health/14507-why-egusi-melon-oil-protects-against-heart-problems

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