Tsamma, the melon of the desert – Italian Cuisine

Tsamma, the melon of the desert

The tsamma is a variety of melon native to the Kalahari desert, in southern Africa, famous for being a precious resource of water in the arid areas of the country

Many are the varieties of melon and watermelon spread throughout the world, but in Africa there is a very special and noteworthy one. It is about melon tsamma also said Citrullus lanatus or wild watermelon, native of the Kalahari desert, in southern Africa. This fruit, halfway between a melon and a watermelon, is known above all for the high quantity of water contained and for being a precious source of water in the arid and desert areas of the African continent.

Tsamma, unique variety of sub-tropical melon

This wild fruit, which grows spontaneously in most of western, central and southern Africa, externally resembles a small watermelon, but the light pulp, yellow or light green with black seeds, resembles a cross between a melon and a pumpkin. The tsamma can sometimes turn out vaguely sweet, but it is mostly tasteless. It is also good to know that if the taste should be bitter it should be immediately discarded as it could be poisonous. The melon has a diameter of about 10-20 centimeters and weighs just over a kilo, but when cultivated it can reach larger dimensions. The tsamma is not particularly interesting from a nutritional point of view; it is composed of 90% water, 7% of sugar and also has low concentrations of minerals and vitamins (B and C). THE seeds they are instead an excellent source of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Traditional use in the kitchen requires the pulp to be consumed fresh or cooked, boiled or steamed, the leaves boiled while the seeds are commonly toasted and can be eaten as snacks or added to porridge or vegetable stews. One last curiosity: the seeds contain within them an edible oil that can be used as a condiment or as a body oil.

A melon as a precious resource of water in the desert

As we have seen, this type of melon is characterized above all byhigh water content. This, together with the nourishing seeds, makes the tsamma an essential food resource in arid and desert African areas, both for humans and for the animals that feed on them. For the San tribe of Southern African hunter-gatherers, the hunting season would be impossible without the hydration provided by the melon. Similarly in the Kalahari desert area, a term that can be translated as "great thirst" or "waterless place", the inhabitants owe their survival even to the tsamma melon.
There is a belief that a person can survive for six weeks by feeding only on this fruit.

David Livingstone, the famous nineteenth-century missionary and explorer, reported in his writings that he had encountered tribes in the arid interior regions of southern Africa along the Zambezi River, and that they managed to stay alive in the desert for several months a year, when water was scarce, thanks to this special wild melon.

Photo: Tsamma_Melone_ (Citrullus_lanatus) _Bernard DUPONT.jpg

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