What is your favourite soup condiment?

Though not my favourite soup condiment but I know countless people that enjoy egusi soup to bits. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll rate my hubby Iyke, on a scale of 5 because he dearly enjoys this soup. Well, my favourite still remains the ogbono soup!

Whatever category you fall into, the aim is basically to highlight that apart from being a soup condiment, that the egusi plant is highly nutritive and medicinal.

Egusi seed still remains a popular food plant consumed especially by our African folks to complement starchy food such as fufu, eba, akpu, pounded yam etc. Interestingly, several researchers have pointed out that egusi is healthful and beneficial for the healthy functioning of our bodies.

Egusi seed is botanically known as Citrullus colocynthis (Curcurbita citrullus L. or Citrullus lanatus Thumb.) and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It is known by various names such as bitter cucumber, pumpkin seeds, egusi melon, vine of Sodom plant, wild gourd, bitter apple, colocynth or desert gourd.

Dioecious egusi plant is distinguished by its climbing tendrils that have a similar appearance with vine plant. It is originally from Africa, Mediterranean region and Asia and the spherical fruit is greenish in colour when young but changes to slight yellow once ripe. Although the egusi melon fruit has a similar physical appearance with watermelon, yet they are both different from each other. While watermelon pulp is sweet, edible and reddish in colour, the egusi melon pulp is bitter, non-edible and slightly whitish in colour. Each plant bears between fifteen to thirty melon fruits.

Though the watermelon seeds are non-edible, the protein-rich egusi seeds are edible and remains the most used part of the Colocynthis Citrullus plant. The spongy white pulp contains several melon seeds that are mostly used for culinary purposes. The seeds are normally washed and sun-dried before being stored for future usage. This annual growing plant usually spreads on the ground or climb any nearby tree or stake. The fleshy, perennial roots are angular and slender in shape with the lobed, angular leaves bearing solitary yellowish flowers within the leaves axils.

The seeds can be planted on plain land, tilled land or on ridges at the onset of the rainy season, between April and June. Once mature, the melon gourds are then harvested during the dry season between October to December. The melon seeds can be stored for a very long time however, they are mostly attacked by fungi Penicillium and Aspergillus during this period. Such fungi attacks lead to reduced seed germination, increased free fatty acid, seed discoloration, reduced nutritional benefits, production of aflatoxin and toxic metabolites.

Oil Contents of Bitter Melon Seeds
The bitter melon seeds consist of 10 to 16% oleic acid, 9 to 12% palmitic acid, 67 to 73% linoleic acid and 5 to 8% stearic acid.

Nutritional Values of Egusi (Melon Seeds)
Igwenyi et al., (2011) report that Citrullus colocynthus seeds contain about 50% oil, 8.28% potassium, 34.86% protein, 1.49% calcium, 42.29% oil, 3.37ppm copper and 162.76ppm sodium.

It is also an excellent source of nutritional minerals and vitamins such as carbohydrate, protein, fat, zinc, vitamin B1 (Thiamine), dietary fibre, sulphur, magnesium, vitamins B2 (Riboflavin), niacin and manganese.

Phytochemical Contents of the Bitter Melon
Jayaraman and Christina (2013) carried out a phytochemical analysis of the melon plant extracts. The study showed the presence of Cucurbitacin A, B, C, D, E (α-elaterin), saponins, alkaloids, anthranol, saponarin, tannins, tryptophan, terpenoids, J, L, caffeic acid, flavone glucosides, phenolic, arginine, flavanoids, cardic glycoloids, steroids, trace elements and sulfur-containing amino acids in this plant.

Furthermore, Al-Snafi (2016) highlights that the bitter melon plant is highly beneficial due to its anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antioxidant, analgesic, protective, antimicrobial, reproductive, pharmacological, gastrointestinal and anticancer properties.


12 Key Benefits of Egusi Melon Citrullus colocynthis

Culinary Purposes
Egusi is mostly grown for its shelled seeds that are usually ground and used for preparing assorted dishes such as egusi soup, egusi stew and salad. Some common Nigerian egusi dishes include; pounded yam and egusi soup, egusi and okro soup, Iyan and egusi, fufu and egusi soup, eba and egusi soup, egusi sauce and rice etc.

Before preparing the egusi soup or egusi sauce, the sun-dried seeds are either ground plain or roasted/fried before being ground. Chaffs obtained during the oil extraction of egusi seeds can be used for making fried cake snack popularly known as robo cake. The seeds can be fermented and used for making a local spice known as ogiri. Due to its high oil content, egusi seeds can be used for making margarine, butter and animal feed.

Anti-inflammatory Properties
Inflammation is a localised physical condition whereby the body part becomes inflamed, red, swollen and painful as a result of the reaction to infection or injury.

Rajamanickam et al., (2010) investigated the effect of various phlogistic agents-induced paw oedema and carrageenan-induced air-pouch inflammation in rats. The study reveals that the methanol extract of egusi significantly inhibited serotonin, carrageenan and prostaglandin E1-induced paw oedema. Peak inhibition was observed in prostaglandin E1-induced paw oedema.

Moreover, methanol extract of Citrullus colocynthis in carrageenan air-pouch model significantly reduced the volume of exudate and the movement of monocytes and neutrophils. The Citrullus colocynthis extract significantly lowered the formation of granuloma tissue in chronic inflammation model. Based on the above findings, the researchers agreed that Citrullus colocynthis is suitable for use as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Anticancer Properties
Grossman et al., (2007) studied the antiproliferative impact of cucurbitacin glycosides obtained from Citrullus colocynthis leaves. This study was carried out in human breast cancer cell growth. Bitter melon leaves were extracted and cucurbitacin B/E glycosides were then isolated from the extract.

The Cucurbitacin glycoside combination (1:1) inhibited the growth of ER+ MCF-7 and ER- MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cell lines. The cell-cycle analysis revealed that treatment with isolated cucurbitacin glycoside combination led to the accumulation of cells at the G2/M phase of the cell cycle.

The results of the study showed that cucurbitacin glycosides possess pleiotropic effects on cells thus leading to both apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Thus cucurbitacin glycosides exhibit therapeutic effects against breast cancer cells.

Anti-bacterial Properties
Gurudeeban et al., (2010) studied the antibacterial effects of Citrullus colocynthis (Cucurbitaceae) leaf extract using agar disc diffusion technique. Qualitative phytochemical test of the active extracts showed the presence of flavonoids, phenols and tannins as the active components. The antimicrobial effects of the active extracts were compared with gentamicin (10µg/disc) and piperacillin (100µg/disc). The results showed that Citrullus colocynthis is suitable for treating ailments caused by bacteria and organisms.

Hepatoprotective Properties
Dar et al., (2012), isolated the hepatoprotective active compounds of the ethanolic extract of Citrullus colocynthis L. They also investigated the hepatoprotective activity of Citrullus colocynthis L. against polluted water induced hepatotoxicity in albino rats. Both the total bilirubin, proteins and body weight were evaluated pre and post treatment to ascertain the hepatoprotective activity. The results of the study show that the ethanolic extract of Citrullus colocynthis L. has potent hepatoprotective activity.

Anti-arthritic Properties
Kachhawah et al., (2016) investigated the effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Citrullus colocynthis fruits against anti-arthritic activity. The study aimed to develop a standardisation protocol for the anti-arthritic effects of the hydroalcoholic extract that contains cucurbitacin glycoside and quercetin.

The biological activity showed that melon fruit hydroalcoholic extract possess significant anti-arthritic properties. This is attributed to its rich constituent of phytochemicals such as flavonoids. As a result, it can be used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease symptomized by chronic inflammation of the joints, stiffness, swelling, pain and redness in the joints. This sort of chronic inflammation tends to destroy the ligaments, cartilage and bone thereby leading to deformities in the joints.

Dermatological Purposes
The vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and niacin in this plant help to maintain healthy skin. Oil extracted from egusi seeds can be used for producing local soap and pomade for dermatological care.

Livestock Fodder
The shells obtained during the oil extraction can be used as poultry litter. The leaves and the gourds can also serve as livestock fodders.

Treatment of Boils and Carbuncles
Boils and carbuncles are inflamed, red, painful lumps that can develop on any part of the skin. Al-Snafi (2016) reports that the fruit and root of the egusi plant can be mashed and mixed with water. This mixture can then be applied to boils, carbuncles and pimples.

Aids Digestion
Due to the presence of dietary fibre and vitamin B1 (Thiamine) in egusi melon, it is useful for facilitating easy digestion of food.

Boosts Appetite
It helps to boost appetite due to its constituent of vitamin B1.

Anti-diabetic Properties
Diwan et al., (2000) attest that every part of the egusi melon plant namely; fruit, stem, root, leaves, oil extracts and seeds possess antidiabetic properties. This is attributed to the insulinotropic effects of the plant.


10 Easiest Ways to Plant Egusi Melon

Peradventure you are keen on planting egusi melon by yourself, here are the easiest steps on how you can go about this.

1] Get dried shelled egusi seeds.
2] Use hoe or shovel to till or make ridges on a mapped out land (preferably a sheltered land with trees or stakes for the tendrils to climb). This should be done at the beginning of rainy season preferably between April through June.
3] Water and add manure/organic compost on the tilled soil to add nutrients.
4] Plant 3 to 5 egusi seeds in each hole on the tilled soil at a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Ensure to plant each set of seeds at a distance of at least 18 to 20 inches apart.
5] Cover the planted egusi seeds with soil, compost then water appropriately.
6] After five to seven days, the egusi seedlings will start sprouting out.
7] Once seedlings have properly developed, add more manure or compost and allow to continue growing.
8] Weed the cultivated land at intervals to prevent unwanted weeds from interfering with the growth of the bitter melon.
9] Support the climbing melon vines with stakes and water at intervals.
10] Harvest the bitter melon once matured and ripen (normally between October to December).

This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

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