A wild-growing native of Southern Africa, the Kalahari melon is prized for its high water content. It is said that the Bushmen in the Kalahari can live for months with no sources of water other than this wild melon – water can make up as much as 90% of its weight.
Although they are related to the watermelons we see in our local supermarket, Kalahari melons have none of the sweetness or texture of common watermelons. In fact, their flavour can vary from bland to bitter, and the flesh can be tough. It is the seeds that are the hidden jewels of the fruit – they can be roasted and eaten as a high-protein snack, dried and stored for later use, or crushed to extract the oil.
We use Kalahari melon seed oil as a vital ingredient in our Botanical Shine™ Nourishing Hair Oil and Botanical Shine™ Conditioners. The high levels of Omega-6 the oil contains help moisturise and soften, something the people of Southern Africa have known for years – they have a long history of applying it to both skin and hair.
As they grow happily in vast numbers in the wild, Kalahari melons are well adapted to poor soils and drought, and so are well integrated into ecosystems of Southern Africa, without needing huge amounts of water or fertilizer to grow successfully. They are also easily cultivated by farmers, who grow and harvest the fruit before crushing it when ripe to manually extract the seed. The oil is then mechanically extracted from the seed and purified before use. This is a low-impact process which has a benefit to the local economy.
The seed oil used in our hair products is sourced from a cooperative in Namibia which is helping over 5000 women to increase their income, enabling them to improve their standards of living and send their children to school – something that wasn’t financially possible for them before.
As an experiment, I decided to grow some Kalahari melons from seed last year. Although we did manage to grow them successfully, they were much smaller than we had hoped they would be. This year, I changed their growing medium by adding sand to our home-produced compost to try to reproduce the sandy soil type of their native country, and I also made sure I kept the soil temperature up. By also adjusting the watering (they aren’t used to too much water), I ended up with full-size fruit, about 15cm in diameter. Their flavour was very similar to cucumber – crisp and refreshing, and you can easily see how eating them could help prevent dehydration! I have also saved some seeds, ready to plant next year.