Egusi soup is one of the most popular soups in Nigeria. The Hausa people call it miyan gushi; the Yoruba tribe calls it efo elegusi, while the Igbo people call it ofe egusi. The soup is very tasty and it is made with seeds of the “wild watermelon” otherwise called egusi.
Melon isn’t just the constituent of a tasty soup; it is also very rich in protein and vitamins and it is something you can plant. Interestingly, it is quite easy to cultivate melon. There are a couple of things about this plant that makes it easy to grow. One of such is that it is resistant to most pests and diseases that affect other crops. Also, melon grows in such a way that it suppresses weed growth. It tends to forms a blanket-like shadow on the soil that prevents weeds from getting adequate moisture and light.
Melon has many health benefits which makes it an important staple in the average Nigerian diet. One of these benefits is the protein content which makes it an excellent nutritional source. In fact 40% of the seed is made up of protein. Other components of melon seeds include palmitic, stearic, linoleic and oleic acids which are essential in protecting the heart.
The oil is another beneficial nutritional content of the melon seeds. About 40% of the seed comprises oil. The good part about the oil is it is cholesterol free. Unsaturated fatty acid makes up about 78% of the oil. It is very essential in protecting the heart and preventing cardiovascular diseases.
Also, melon seeds contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C as well as alpha-tocopherol, a component of vitamin E.
Additionally, melon is very rich in fibre and this makes it quite easy to digest. The alpha-tocopherol found in melon seed is a component of vitamin E that helps in maintaining smooth young skin and improves fertility. Also, the vitamin B2 and B3 in melon can help to maintain a healthy skin. The oil is a useful component which can be extracted and used for soap making.
The different plants of the melon plant namely the seeds, roots and stem have properties that lower blood sugar hence they may help prevent or control diabetes.
Finally, melon can be used to supplement baby food in the absence of breast milk. This is done by blending the seeds with honey and water. This can be given to the child as an alternative feeding formula.
Often times, it’s not uncommon to see the melon plants growing in the wild. The melon plant generally thrives in the Nigerian climate hence you can choose to cultivate it on your farm. This article offers a step by step guide to the interesting process of egusi farming.
The melon plant thrives on soft soil, so the clumps of hard soil will have to be broken down. Once it is broken down into a fine, loose mix, the soil is ready for planting.
The planting season is between April and June which is the start of the rainy season. Egusi grows very well in arid climate. After preparing the land, ridges are created and the dried shelled seeds are planted in these ridges.
Generally, melons do not thrive on open flat fields. It is best to plant the seeds in a place sheltered with trees. These trees can serve as support for the climbing tendrils.
You can add organic compost prior to planting the seeds. Place 3 to 5 seeds in each hole at a depth of 2 inches. The spacing between seeds should be between 18 to 20 inches.
Then water the seeds regularly. Usually the seedlings appear within a week. The plant is expected to sprout within 1 week. Once the seedlings are fully established, you should also add manure or organic compost. If there are no trees to support the climbing vine, you can use stakes to support the melon plant. It takes about 6 months for the plant to mature. Usually, 1 stem of melon can shooot out 5 to 15 heads. One head can produce up to 150 seeds.
Also, you can increase your agricultural output by planting your melon with other crops. Some of the plants that can be intercropped with egusi include cassava, yam and maize. However, the melon vine is a climbing plant so you might need to plant in small quantities when intercropping.
Since the melon plant is a climbing plant, you can provide support for the vine by staking. Usually the melon gourd is ready for harvest within 90 days.
The melon gourds are usually harvested between October and December. The melon seeds can be stored for as long as possible, however they can be susceptible to fungal attacks from the disease-causing strains of the Penicillum and Aspergillus species. These attacks tend to reduce the seed germination and increased seed discoloration. They also reduce the nutritional benefits of the plant and produce toxic metabolites and aflatoxins.
Once the stems are dry, you can harvest your watermelons. At the time of harvest the fruit turns from the green to white or yellowish-white.
You can break the melons after harvest and leave for 1-2 weeks to allow the melons decompose then you can start collecting the seeds. However, this is a very smelly process so you might need to do it far away from home especially if your farm is close to your home.
The extent of your harvest is usually dependent on much you’ve planted. Usually, 1kg of melon seeds can produce between 450kg to 2 tonnes. If you increase the quantity of seeds you’re certain to reap a bountiful harvest. However, the process of extracting the seeds from the gourds can be quite uncomfortable due to rotten smell pf the gourd.
Notwithstanding, there’s readily available market for melon seeds otherwise called egusi and it doesn’t matter what part of the country you live, you’ll certain receive a great return on your investment.