Abstract: The melon seeds are filled with very dry and bitter flesh. Composed of rich edible oil and pure protein, these little seeds pack a lot of nutrition into a very small package. In many parts of Africa, where farmers lack access to meat or dairy, the melon seeds including high oil and protein content can make an excellent dietary supplement. But do you know how are melon seeds processed and then used in the daily life? This article will show the melon seeds processing situation in Nigeria and the daily usage of melon seeds in detail.
Melon and Melon Seeds Introduction
Melon is one of the most popular vegetable crops grown in Africa. It is a tendril climbing herbaceous annual crop which grows better in some parts of the Savannah belt region of Nigeria. Melon originated from West Africa and a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, and this peculiar looking plant can grow just about anywhere, from humid gullies, to dry savannahs, to tropical highlands, so it is a possible source of food for farmers in even the worst conditions. The seed is popularly called “Egusi” a name widely used throughout West Africa.
The melon seed has a lot of advantages among which are the following: the oil extracted from it can be used in the manufacturing of margarine, shortening and cooking oils, while the residual cake is a useful source of protein for livestock feed. Also, it is used for producing melon snacks known as “robo”.
Melon Seeds Nutritive Values
The melon seed consists of about 50% oil by weight, 37.4% of protein, 2.6% fiber, 3.6% ash and 6.4% moisture. Out of the oil content of the seed, 50% is made of unsaturated fatty acids, which are linoleic (35%) and oleic (15%) and 50% saturated fatty acids, which are stearic and palmitic acids. The presence of unsaturated fatty acid makes melon nutritionally desirable and suggests a possible effect about lowering of blood cholesterol. The consumption of melon seeds and its product reduces the chances of developing heart diseases. Melon has an amino acid profile that compares favorably with that of soybeans and even white of an egg. Also melon is a rich source of Sodium (Na), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn) and fat. The nutritional value of melon per 100g is Carbohydrate 7.6g, Dietary fiber 0.4g, Fat 0.2g, Protein 0.6g, and Vitamin C 8mg.
Melon Seeds Processing
Melon fruits are collected when ripe and are processed from the pod to obtain the seed for sale or use, and processing of melon seeds includes shelling and oil extraction. With the social progress and quick development of industry, the melon seeds production methods also go on a transition from traditional method to modern and advanced method, that’s to say, the automatic machine production line is used for melon seeds processing instead of manual work in Nigeria.
● Melon Seeds Shelling
The melon seed requires that the shell should be decorticated before it can be processed for consumption. The manual decortication of egusi which is in use is not only time consuming and slow but also can be drudgery. The effect of this output is usually low and sometimes creating a scarcity of the product with it associated the high cost especially in non producing areas during offseason. So traditional method of shelling melon appears to be too slow, time-consuming, tedious, inefficient and involve drudgery, thus limiting the availability of the product in the market.
However, the melon seeds shelling machine is used for large-scale production of oil and protein sources to shell melon to meet the capacity required for industrial use over a specified period of time in Nigeria. The melon seeds machine can separate kernels from shells automatically, and a melon seeds shelling production line can save time and labor for larger scale production.
● Melon Seed Oil Extraction
In the traditional way, the oil of melon seeds is extracted by squeezing the ground seeds by hand or on hard smooth wooden platform inclined gently to the horizontal. This method is slow, inefficient and labor intensive.
However, recent needs have motivated the production of melon oil on a larger scale with the use of screw and hydraulic presses. This requires the systematic investigation of processes by which good quality oil can be effectively and efficiently extracted from the seeds. The use of hydraulic press for expression of oil from oilseeds is appropriate for small and medium scale production because of its lower initial and running costs. For larger scale industrial production, there are screw presses and solvent extraction process generally in Nigeria.
Usage of Shelled Melon Seeds in Daily Life
While the seeds are often shelled and eaten individually as a snack, many processed forms of the seeds have made their way into common cooking practices. After soaking, fermenting, or boiling, the seeds take on different flavors and are frequently added to thicken soups and stews. On their own, the seeds can also be roasted and ground into a spread like peanut butter. With further preparation, the egusi-seed meal can be pressed into patties to be used as a meat substitute, and its oil can be used for cooking.
● Egusi Soup
Melon seeds or egusi is one of the major delicious soup making ingredients in Nigeria. Egusi soup is a kind of soup thickened with the ground seeds and popular in West Africa, with considerable local variation. Besides the seeds, water, and oil, egusi soup typically contains leaf vegetables, other vegetables, seasonings, and meat. Typical leaf vegetables for egusi soup include bitterleaf, celosia, and spinach. Typical other vegetables include tomatoes and okra. Typical seasonings include chili peppers, onions, and fermented beans. Typical meats include beef, goat, fish, shrimp, or crayfish.
● Melon Seeds for Baby Food
The melon seeds or egusi can also be an important supplementary baby food, helping prevent malnutrition. Blending the seeds with water and honey produces a milky liquid that can be used as formula if breast milk is unavailable.