Egusi is the seed of the fruits of some plants from the Cucurbitaceae family. In this family, you will find watermelon, ivy gourd, sweet melon, pumpkin, squash, and cucumber. Seeds of Cucumeropsis mannii. Lagenaria sicceraria, Telfairia occidentalis (Fluted Pumpkin) and Citrullus colocynthis are often consumed as Egusi. The seeds of these fruits have a similar make up – high oil and protein contents. All of them are cultivated mainly in west and central Africa for their seeds. Compared to the water melon, the fruits of these plants are not palatable.
Egusi is popular in Nigeria but many other countries in west and central Africa like Ghana, Cameroon, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Burkina Faso also have delicacies made from this food crop.
Egusi contains about 50% of oil which makes it an oil seed. In times past, Egusi oil was one of the popular oils used in cooking along with groundnut oil before the advent of vegetable oils. The composition of the fatty acids is: 63% Linoleic acid (polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid), 16% Oleic acid (mono unsaturated Omega 9 fatty acid). Linoleic acid is the major fatty acid in our regular vegetable oils like the soybean oil while Oleic acid is the fatty that is most abundant in Olive oil. They also contain about 11% stearic acid and 10% palmitic acid which are saturated fats.
About one third of Egusi’s constituent is protein. The high energy, high protein content makes it very suitable for addressing undernutrition. Although the limiting Amino acid composition is lysine just like in rice and other cereals, it contains arginine, tryptophan and methionine. Some studies have reported that you can also get some quantity of Vitamin B1 and B2 as well as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and phosphorus.
Mostly, the Egusi seeds are usually shelled and grinded to make soups which accompany stiff porridges like pounded yam, Amala, and Garri. However, the seeds of the Telefaria Occidentalis, the fluted pumpkin called Ugu can also be toasted and consumed as a snack.
Apart from soups and eating the seed as a snack, making it into a pudding is another way that it is consumed. This is common in Cameroon.
Egusi that has been defatted (fat has been removed) and made into patties can be used as a meat substitute for those looking for an alternative to meat just the way Tofu is made from Soybeans.