All About the SuperSeed - Egusi Seed


Egusi seeds, also known as melon seeds, have been cultivated and consumed in West Africa for centuries. They are native to the region and have long been an essential part of the local cuisine.

The seeds are primarily obtained from two species of plants: Citrullus lanatus var. colocynthis (wild Egusi) and Cucumeropsis mannii (cultivated Egusi). The seeds are highly nutritious due to being high in protein, unsaturated fats, and minerals. Three common varieties of the Egusi plant are Egusi Citrillus, Egusi Cucumeropsis, and Egusi Lagenaria. Archaeologists have traced Egusi seeds back centuries in West Africa, having evidence of cultivation dating back over 5,000 years.

Traditionally, Egusi seeds have been used both for extracting oil and for adding nutritional thickening to African soups and stews. The ground powder from Egusi has also commonly been used as the base for porridges, baked goods, and beverages.

Archaeologists have traced Egusi seeds back centuries in West Africa, having evidence of cultivation dating back over 5,000 years. Traditionally, Egusi seeds have been used both for extracting oil and for adding nutritional thickening to African soups and stews. The ground powder from Egusi has also commonly been used as the base for porridges, baked goods, and beverages.

Planting Egusi Seeds

Egusi seeds are commonly planted and harvested during the rainy season in West Africa, which typically falls between April and October, depending on the specific region. Peak harvest occurs from August through November.

Soil and Climate
Egusi seeds require well-drained, loamy soil to grow successfully. They grow best in areas with a tropical or subtropical climate.

The seeds are usually planted at the beginning of the rainy season after the soil has warmed up. Small mounds or ridges are created, and the seeds are sown at a depth of around two centimetres, with a spacing of about 60-90 centimetres between each seed.

The seeds typically germinate within 7-10 days, but this timing can vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions.

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Growth, Cultivation And Harvest

Egusi plants require regular watering, especially during dry spells. However, the soil should not become waterlogged, as excessive moisture can cause root rot.

Providing organic fertilisers, such as compost or well-rotted manure, can significantly improve plant growth and yield.

Regular weeding is essential to prevent weed competition and promote better plant growth.

The time required for Egusi plants to reach maturity can vary between 90 to 120 days, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Indicators of readiness
The plants' leaves start turning yellow, and the fruits (containing the seeds) change from green to brown when they are ready for harvest.

Harvesting process
The fruits are typically harvested by cutting them from the plant using a sharp knife or shears. They are then left to dry in a well-ventilated location until the fleshy part of the fruit decomposes, leaving the hard-shelled seeds intact.

Uses in Cuisine

Egusi seeds are highly valued for their high nutritional content and are widely used in various traditional West African dishes. They are particularly popular in soups and stews, where they add a rich, nutty flavour and a thickening agent. Egusi seeds are often ground into a fine powder before use or can be used whole in certain dishes.

While Egusi seeds are most commonly associated with savoury dishes, they can also be used to make delicious sweet treats. Egusi seeds can be ground and mixed with sugar, honey, or milk to make a paste that is then rolled into balls or coated in chocolate for a unique dessert.


Nutrient Profile

Egusi is considered a source of complete protein containing adequate levels of all the essential amino acids necessary for human health and metabolism. Its rich amino acid profile contributes to its nutritional value. It also provide a substantial number of essential minerals and vitamins.

MACRO NUTRIENTPer 100gPer serving (60g)
of which saturates4.2g2.5g
of which sugar 2.9g 1.74g
Fibre 1.5g 0.9g
Protein  32.6g 19.5g
Salt 0.03g 0.01g
AMINO ACIDPer 100gPer serving (60g)
Arginine 0.7g 0.4g 
Asparagine 0.5g0.3g
Aspartic acid  0.2g 0.1g
Cysteine 0.3g 0.2g
Glutamic acid 1.1g 0.7g
Glycine  1.1g 0.6g
Histidineϯ 3.9g 2.4g
Isoleucine*ϯ 0.6g 0.4g
Leucine*ϯ 1.6g 1.0g
Lysineϯ 0.5g 0.3g
Methionineϯ 2.2g 1.3g 
Phenylalanineϯ 1.8g 1.1g
Proline0.7g 0.4g
Serine 1.1g 0.7g 
Threonineϯ 1.0g 0.6g
Tryptophanϯ2.7g 1.6g
Tyrosine  1.5g 0.9g
Valine*ϯ 2.4g 1.4g

*= Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
ϯ = One of the Nine Essential Amino Acids

VITAMINSPer 100g (%**RI)Per serving 60g ( %**RI)
Vitamin A178.4μg (22%) 107.04μg (13%)
Vitamin C9.85mg (12%)  5.91mg (7%)
Vitamin D 192.23μg (>100%) 115.34μg (>100%) 
Vitamin E 11.66mg (97%)7mg (58%) 
Thamine (Vitamin B1) 1.76mg (>100%) 1.05mg (97%) 
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) 0.49mg (35%) 0.29mg (21%)
Niacin (Vitamin B3)3.46mg (22%)  2.08mg (13%) 
Vitamin B6  1.24mg (89%) 0.74mg (53%) 
Biotin (Vitamin B7) 20.61mg (42%) 12.37mg (25%) 
Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)935μg (>100%)561μg (>100%) 
Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) 14.90mg (>100%)8.94mg (>100%)
MINERALSPer 100g (%**RI)Per serving 60g ( %**RI)
Iron9.30mg (67%) 5.58mg (40%)
Zinc7.20mg (72%) 4.32mg (43%) 
 Magnesium 155.10mg (41%) 93.06mg (25%) 
Calcium 255.70mg (32%) 153.42mg (19%) 
 Potassium 97.62mg (3%) 58.57mg (2%) 
Phosphorus128.45mg (23%)77.07mg (14%)
**RI = Reference Intake
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Facts About Egusi

They come from cucurbit plants - Egusi seeds come from various gourd/melon plants belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons. The seeds from the Egusi melon are the most commonly consumed.

There are over 190 varieties - While different varieties of the Egusi plant exist, the most common cultivars used for obtaining the seeds are Citrullus mucosospermus, Cucumeropsis mannii, and Lagenaria vulgaris. The flavours and appearance can vary slightly.

They grow in large pods - The mature fruits where the seeds are harvested from can be round, oblong, or pear-shaped and grow up to 30cm long on vines along the ground. Inside the hard outer shell are dozens of small, white Egusi seeds encased in a fibrous pulp.

Harvesting is manual - Most Egusi seed production relies on manual methods like hand-picking and knife-cutting of the pods done by skilled harvesters to collect seeds while preventing bruising. Mechanised harvesting is less common.

Skinning is labour-intensive - To remove the thin white seed coat around each small oval-shaped Egusi seed, women in local African communities often skillfully rub piles of freshly harvested wet seeds between their hands, then dry them naturally using screens.

They expand hugely in liquid - Due to their high fibre content, Egusi seeds can quadruple in size after being submerged and soaked in water. The amount used in recipes must be minimised initially to account for the extensive expansion.

Nigeria is the largest producer of Egusi seeds, accounting for around 40% of the global production. Other countries in West Africa, such as Ghana, Senegal, and Mali, also cultivate Egusi melons for their seeds.

Why Egusi Seed is a SuperFood

Egusi seeds are packed with essential nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, dietary fibre, vitamins (including vitamin A, vitamin C, and several B vitamins), and minerals (including magnesium, potassium, and iron). These nutrients are important for overall health and well-being.

Antioxidant properties
Egusi seeds contain phytochemicals like flavonoids, tannins, and phenolics, which possess antioxidant properties and combat disease-causing inflammation and oxidative stress, according to studies. Antioxidants help neutralise harmful free radicals in the body, reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting cellular health.

Heart-healthy fats
Egusi seeds contain a good amount of healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are beneficial for heart health as they help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of heart diseases. Approximately 49% of the seed composition comes from mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids praised for improving cholesterol levels when eaten in moderation.

High in protein
Egusi seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. Egusi seeds contain over 33% protein by weight, providing all essential amino acids making their protein content comparable to meat and eggs. The quality protein helps maintain and build muscle. Protein is necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues, and it is also involved in various enzymatic reactions in the body.

Promote bone health
Egusi seeds are rich in minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Adequate intake of these minerals can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis.

Blood sugar regulation
The dietary fibre present in Egusi seeds helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels. Despite a balanced carb content, Egusi seeds only minimally impact blood sugar making them safe for diabetic diets.


In Summary

With benefits ranging from nourishing plant-based protein to anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and slow-digesting fats, Egusi seeds deliver an impressively broad nutritional payoff unmatched by common grains, nuts or vegetables. Their rich composition warrants their superfood status and has been nourishing and strengthing West Africans for centuries.


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