Tsamma Melon

Ark of taste
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The tsamma is a melon from the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa. Taxonomists disagree over how exactly to classify the tsamma at the subspecies or variety level, but agree that it belongs to the same species as the watermelon, Citrullus lanatus— indeed, the watermelon is thought to have been domesticated in southern Africa, and the tsamma is also known as the wild watermelon. (In Namibia, tsamma refers to Citrullus ecirrhosus.)

Tsamma melons are 10-20 centimeters in diameter and just over 1 kilogram when they grow wild, and larger when cultivated. They resemble small watermelons from the outside, but their flesh is pale greenish yellow or white. They are mildly sweet or bitter, though not particularly flavorful in either case. Bitter tsamma melons are usually discarded, as they can cause poisoning in humans.

Because tsamma melons are about 90% water, they are a vital resource for desert-dwelling animals (both wild and domestic) and peoples. The San peoples, who traditionally forage for much of their food, rely on tsamma during hunting trips and throughout the dry season. It is said that a person can survive for six weeks on nothing but tsamma.

Whole tsamma melons store relatively well, and can be cut into pieces and dried to extend their shelf life even further. The dried flesh is cooked in stews and porridges. Tsamma seeds are dark brown and rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They can be dried or roasted and eaten whole or ground into flour, and they yield a rich oil that is used in cooking and for skin care.

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Other info


Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Indigenous community:San
Nominated by:Ditshwanelo Makwati