I have found out that there is an amazing plant that is unique to Namibia and particularly to the arid regions of the country. That sounds like Tsumkwe to me! The scientific name of the plant is: Acanthosicyos horridos but that’s just plain horrid. The locals call it the !Nara melon, much better if you ask me (the ! denotes a palatal click!! those last two exclamation marks denote nothing other than emphasis or maybe surprise) This plant bears an annual crop of !Nara melons that ripen in the late summer months of November to May and as we arrive in October we shouldn’t have long to wait for these little beauties! The melons can get as large as 15cm in diameter and are highly nutritious with yellow flesh and cream coloured seeds. Long sticks are used to harvest the melons from the spiky stems of the plant which are then opened and the flesh and seeds scooped out, placed in a drum and cooked over the fire. The rind of the melon is fed to the donkeys (means of transport) or it is dried and used as fuel….fully usable packaging. The seeds are strained from the cooked mixture and are dried on sheets of plastic in the sun to be sold or they are stored and eaten later. The seeds taste like nuts apparently, and are eaten alone or are ground and added to dishes. The boiled pulp is eaten as porridge or it is also spread on plastic sheets to dry in the sun. When it is dry it can be peeled off the sheet and is the local equivalent of a roll-up (move over Uncle Tobys here comes Aunty Helens). In this state it is called !Nara cake and can be stored for long periods of time (years) before being eaten as it is or with porridge.
It is in this form that it tastes like chocolate!!…only a little more chewy, with the added advantage that it doesn’t melt on a hot day!! Kiss those chocolatey fingers goodbye! I can’t wait to try some!! What a culinary delight…chocolate, nuts, porridge and more from one humble melon! But wait! There is more… this marvel has medicinal properties too including helping with digestive issues, promotes healing of wounds and can be used as a moisturiser and as sunscreen. All this from one unlikely looking melon!