Citrullus colocynthis – Famine Foods

Citrullus colocynthis

Colocynthis vulgaris


India (Rajasthan): the seeds of this plant are gathered, washed with salt water many times to remove the bitter principles (mostly contained in the attached pulp), or are buried with common salt in small dugouts in the sand, kept covered there for a few weeks, washed, dried, ground into flour and made into Sogra, a rather hard-baked bread. The seeds may also be mixed with bajra [pearl millet Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R.Br.] flour for bread and are reported to provide better taste and lustre to chappatis; (Rajasthan, western): seeds eaten raw, fried and roasted. The dried pulp is listed in the British pharmacopoeia as a powerful hydragogue cathartic. Indigenous methods, however, have been developed to remove the bitter or poisonous principles, since some of the pulp which contains these elements remains attached to the seeds. Nigeria (Kano State, northern): fruit eaten. Requires long boiling to remove bitter principle.

Additional Information

Name Authority:
(L.) Schrad.
Rajasthan, Jaisalmer district: Toos,Tumba, Tastumba. Rajasthan (western):Tumba. Hausa: Kwariowa.
The Chemical composition (Turkish sample): the seeds, which represented 75.5% of the entire peeled fruit, contained traces of an alkaloidal principal, a small amount of an enzyme, and 12.72% of fatty oil containing, in turn, a small amount of phytosterol. The resin is non-glucosidic but portions extracted by ether and chloroform possessed purgative properties. Soil types favored by plant (Rajasthan, western): sandy; sand dunes and open plains.

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