Easily mistaken for a watermelon from the outside, the egusi, Citrullus lanatus, has distinct features on the inside. Although the flesh of the melon is bitter and dry, the main source of food is within the egusi seeds. The large, white seeds contain approximately 50 percent oil and about one third of the seed’s weight is protein. The seed also contains vitamins and minerals, making the seeds a great meat substitute, or a supplement to the diet especially in areas of malnutrition.
The seeds are extracted by cracking open the fruit and leaving the open egusi outside to dry. When the flesh dries, the seeds can be scooped out and the shells of the seeds are removed by hand. After the seeds are shelled, the seeds can be eaten raw. The seeds can also be roasted and ground to create a nut butter, or if prepared with other foods like peanuts and pepper, the ingredients can be ground into a paste. The seeds can even be soaked, fermented, or boiled to thicken soups or season food.
Egusi is native to Western Africa and can grow in various types of climates: dry, humid, and tropical. Egusi is not only easy to grow, but egusi also helps other crops to flourish because of egusi’s ability to keep away the weeds. Egusi produces fruit quickly and is commonly used as an intercrop for sorghum, cassava, coffee, cotton, maize, or bananas. Egusi is also naturally resilient to pests and diseases and egusi can improve soil quality.
What egusi can do for nutrition, egusi can also do for the local economy. In Africa, egusi is considered a cash crop. Women who harvest and handpick the seeds of the egusi can receive a relatively high income in exchange for their manual labor and in turn, improve their standard of living.
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 habanero peppers, seeded and minced
18 ounces tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound fresh spinach, washed and chopped
Place pumpkin seeds in a blender and blend for 30 to 40 seconds or until mixture is a powdery paste. Set aside.
Wash beef and cut into bite-size cubes. Season with salt. In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Add beef and saute for three to five minutes or until brown but not cooked through.
Place tomatoes, onions, and pepper in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Add tomato mixture to meat, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until meat is tender.
Add tomato sauce, water, and shrimp and simmer for ten minutes.
Add spinach and ground pumpkin seeds and continue to simmer ten minutes more.
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