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Sesame seed

Sesame seed was used by the Egyptians as a medicine as early as 1500 B.C.  A drawing on an Egyptian tomb of 4,000 years ago depicts a baker adding sesame seeds to dough. Sesame Seed is probably the oldest crop grown for its taste and for its edible oil dating back 2000 years to China. Its botanical name is Sesamum indicum. Its common name is Benne seed. Its Arabic name is Semsem while sesame oil is called Tahina.

Sesame seed has been used for thousands of years and is still an oil seed of worldwide significance. Early Assyrians believed their gods drank sesame wine as a prelude to creating the world. Around the same time, the Chinese were burning sesame oil to make a soot for ink.

Ancient Greek soldiers carried sesame seeds as energy boosting emergency rations and the Romans made a kind of hummus from sesame and cumin. Sesame has been considered a symbol of good luck and signifies immortality to Brahmins.

The Babylonians made sesame cakes, and used the oil for cooking and toiletries. The Turks used its oil in 900 BC.


 The term “open sesame” first appeared in the Arabian book "The Thousand and One Nights." "Open Sesame" was the magical password that opened the entrance to the cave in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The phrase refers to the seeds' ability to pop, at the slightest touch, when ripe.

Sesame was imported from India to Europe during the first century. Persians used sesame oil because they had no olive oil. Africans, who called it “benne,” brought it with them to the United States in the 17th century during the slave trade.


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Sesame is the dried, oval-shaped seed of the annual herb Sesamum indicum, which grows well in hot climates. Sesame Seed is harvested by hand.  And it is a crop grown primarily for its oil-rich seeds. Sesame Seed is the most commonly produced seed and contains 25 % protein.The seeds also come in more exotic forms, such as the black, brown, and red varieties.

Sesamum indicum, the annual plant reaches heights of 6 feet and sprouts oblong leaves and seed pods. The plant requires a fairly long and warm growing season of four to five months. The plant has an unpleasant odour. The leaves vary from ovate to lanceolate and are hairy on both sides. The flowers are purple to whitish, resembling foxglove, followed by 3 cm (1.25 in) capsules containing numerous seeds. It matures in 80 -180 days when the stems are cut and hung upside down for the ripe seeds to fall out to be collected on mats. Mechanical harvesting is also used, with total worldwide production of almost 4 billion pounds annually.

 Sesame is generally described as having a mild, nut-like, slightly sweet flavor which intensifies when toasted. These tiny, flat seeds come in shades of brown, red and black, but those most commonly found are a pale grayish-ivory. Sesame seeds are all tiny and flat, the black seeds are the most flavorful and aromatic, but all have a rich. Lightly toasting sesame seeds in a dry pan brings out a lovely color, a rich flavor, and the natural oils for a pretty gloss. Black sesame seeds are equally attractive and tasty when toasted.

Sesame seed has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor that makes it versatile enough for use in baked goods such as breads, pastries, cakes and cookies. The seed is available packaged in supermarkets and can be found in bulk in Middle Eastern markets and health-food stores. Because of a high oil content, sesame seed turns rancid quickly. It can be stored airtight in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months, refrigerated up to 6 months or frozen up to a year.

The constituents of sesame seed are many.Interestingly, nutrients from one seed to another vary, but they all contain protein, oils (oleic acid, liuoleic acid, palmitoleic acid, araehidic acid and tetracosanoic acid) lecithin, minerals (Ca, P, K, Fe) saccharide, cellulose, VB2, VE, niacin, folic acid, sterol, sesamd, sesamin and cytochrome C. Unhulled seeds contain more calcium then hulled seeds.

The oils extracted from pressed seeds are used as cooking oil, as a salad oil and in making margarine.


Medicinal uses: Sesame is supposed to tonify kidney, liver and relax the bowel. It is used for the treatment of constipation due to hard stools, tinnitus, anaemia, dizziness and poor vision. Sesame oil is mildly laxative, emollient and demulcent. The seeds and fresh leaves may be used as a poultice. The oil has wide medical and pharmaceutical application.

 Infuse the leaves in some hot boiling water and use this to gargle and treat inflamed membranes of the mouth. Use only after tea has cooled down.

Sesame Seed has been enjoyed by humans since the dawn of civilization. a variety of sesame plants have flourished throughout the rest of Middle East and Asia, where their seeds and oils were used liberally for culinary, medicinal, health, and beauty purposes. It is used in breads, candies, main dishes, as a garnish on pasta and vegetables, and for its oil content.


Sesame Seeds are used to add texture and flavor to a variety of breads, rolls, crackers, and salad dressings. Middle Eastern, Chinese and Asian seasoning blends use crushed, whole, and toasted Sesame Seeds for flavor and texture.


Sesame seeds are sometimes added to bagels and the top of hamburger buns. Sesame seeds are baked into crackers, often in the form of sticks. Sesame plants are also known as til in India and benne in Africa.

Sesame seeds can be made into a paste called tahini (used in hummus) and a Turkish confection called halvah or in tasty marinades and dipping sauces. Sesame is a key ingredient in halva, the Middle Eastern confection, where the seeds are ground and pressed into blocks with various sweet or nutty ingredients.  In sections of the Middle East and East Asia, popular treats are made from sesame mixed with honey or syrup and roasted.

Tahini paste tends to settle into layers and requires stirring before use. It should be kept in a tightly sealed glass jar. In Syria and Lebanon it is mixed with sumac and thyme to make the condiment zatar. Sesame in its ground form, tahini, is widely used throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. It is a flavouring for hummus, a sauce for kebabs and is often mixed with lemon and garlic to make a bread dip — a popular Arab appetizer or mezze. In Mexico, its oil is called ajonjoli which is frequently used for cooking. Sesame flavor (through oil and seeds (roasted and plain)) are also very popular in Korean cuisine. Black sesame appears frequently in Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes where meat or fish is rolled in the seeds before cooking for a crunchy coating. Black sesame is an ingredient of gomassio, the Japanese tabletop condiment, and other colourful rice and noodle dishes. You can also see sesame seeds sprinkled onto some Sushi style foods.

Sesame oil is a non-drying oil, highly stable rarely turning rancid in hot climates. It is very rich in protein, a polyunsaturated fat used in margarine production and cooking oils. Non-culinary uses include its use as an ingredient in soap, cosmetics, lubricants and medicines.


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