Scientific name: Sesamum Indicum, Sesamum Orientale. Other names: Benne, Bene, Oil Plant, Vangloe, Tilseed, Teel, Teel-seed, gingili.
African slaves brought sesame seeds, which they called bennÃ© seeds, to America, where they became a popular ingredient in Southern dishes.
Sesame seeds can be sprinkled on breads or on main dishes and vegetables to add a mild nutty flavor.
Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds which is used in many Near and Far East recipes. You can purchase it prepared in most markets, or make your own.
Sesame seed oil is still the main source of fat used in cooking in the Near and Far East.
Plants in the field
Sesame Seeds is neither a herb or a spice but one of the oldest annual plants grown for its seeds and oil. It is native to Africa and Asia but today is grown in China, India, Mexico and southwest United States as a commercial crop.
Sesame seeds come in a variety of colors depending on the plant variety, including shades of brown, red, black, yellow, and most commonly, a pale grayish ivory. The darker seeds are said to be more flavorful.
Sesame is grown in many parts of the world on over 5 million acres (20,000 km²). The largest producer of the crop in 2007 was China, followed by India, Myanmar, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria. Seventy percent of the world’s sesame crop is grown in Asia, with Africa growing 26%.
Beginning in the 1950s, U.S. production of the crop has been largely centered in Texas, with acerage fluctuating between 10,000 to 20,000 acres (40 to 80 km²) in recent years. The country’s crop does not make up a significant global source; indeed imports have now outstripped domestic production
Aroma and Flavour: In spite of their high oil content, sesame seeds have little aroma, but when they are dry-fried their nutty aroma is very pronounced and their flavor heightened.
Culinary Use: Sesame oil is used in margarines and as a cooking medium and a flavouring ingredient. The seeds are ground to an oily, beige-coloured paste known as tahini, which is used in hummus, a Middle Eastern dip. Sometimes the tahini is mixed with lemon juice and gralic and used as a dip with hot pitta bread as starter or picnic food.
The Chinese are fond of sesame; sesame oil is widely used in Chinese cooking as a flavouring. The seeds are also used, for example sesame prawn toasts are scattered with seeds before they are deep-fried. They are also sprinkled over Chinese toffee apples, pieces of apple fried in a light batter and coated in caramel. Both oil and seeds are sued in the cooking of other Far Eastern countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Gomasio is a Japanese specialty using sesame seeds: s mixture of the ground seeds and salt sued as a seasoning.
The seeds are popular scattered on bread, sweet and savoury biscuits, particularly in Greece and Turkey.
white sesame seeds
Medicinal and Other Use: Sesame is used in laxatives, as an emollient and in poultices. Sesame oil, also called gingelly oil, is highly stable and it does not become rancid quickly in hot humid conditions; it is used in lubricants, soap, cosmetics and ointments. The mixture or ‘cake’ that remains after the pressing of the oil is full of protein and eaten as a subsistence food.
Sesame is a member of the Pedaliaceae family. It is native to tropical Asian countries. The sesame plant can grow to a height of three feet and is an annual herb. It is an erect plant covered in fine hair and has a square stem. The leaves are flat, lanceolate in shape and grow in clusters of twos and threes. The flowers are pinkish purple in color or white and are bell shaped. Sesame is planted in the month of May and is harvested by fall or autumn. The name sesame is derived from Middle English sisame and from the Latin sesamum.
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.
Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man dating back to as early as 1600 BC. They are highly valued for their oil which is exceptionally resistant to rancidity. “Open sesame,” the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The scientific name for sesame seeds is Sesamun indicum.
Copper Provides Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Magnesium Supports Vascular and Respiratory Health,
Calcium Helps Prevent Colon Cancer, Osteoporosis, Migraine and PMS, Zinc for Bone Health and Sesame Seeds’ Phytosterols Lower Cholesterol
Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.
The oils extracted from pressed seeds are used as cooking oil, as a salad oil and in making margarine. The seeds are sprinkled on top of breads and other baked goods. Dried sesame powder is mixed with hot water and sugar to from a congee that is eaten as a dessert.Sesame oil is also used as a pharmaceutic solvent, and sesamolin is also used as a synergist for pyrethrum insecticides
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, clizziness and poor vision. Mix powdered toasted sesame seeds with ground tuckahoe. Stir one to two teaspoonful into warm water and take in the mornings.
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.
In traditional Chinese medicine, black sesame seeds have sweet and neutral properties, and are associated with the Kidney and Liver meridians. They function to tonify yin jing and blood, moisten the intestines, and help build the spirit, or shen.
Women of ancient Babylon would eat halva, a mixture of honey and sesame seeds to prolong youth and beauty, while Roman soldiers ate the mixture for strength and energy .
Sesame seeds produce an allergic reaction in a small percentage of the general population (5-13 per 100).
There have been erroneous claims that sesame seeds also contain THC which may be detectable on random screening. This error stems from a misunderstanding of the commercial drug Dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC. The normal delivery mechanism for synthetic Dronabinol is via infusion into sesame oil and encapsulation into soft gelatin capsules. As a result some people are under the mistaken assumption that sesame oil naturally contains THC. In fact, THC, CBD, CBN and the other cannibinoids are unique to the Cannabis genus.
Sesame oil is used for massage and health treatments of the body in the ancient Indian ayurvedic system with the types of massage called abhyanga and shirodhara. Ayurveda views sesame oil as the most viscous of the plant oils and believes it may pacify the health problems associated with Vata aggravation.
Black sesame seeds are an extremely good source of calcium; studies have shown that one gram of seeds contains approximately 85 milligrams of calcium. Black sesame seeds also have high amounts of protein, phosphorous, iron and magnesium. In some patients, black sesame seeds are used to help patients recover from serious illnesses and fevers, treat constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Some practitioners recommend using black sesame seeds with polygonum to keep a person’s hair looking rich and dark.