Information about Sesame Seeds plus Sesame Seed Recipes
Ingredient of the
seeds, also called benne seeds, come from the plant Sesamum indicum
which belongs to the
family pedaliaceae (unicorn plant family).
They are used whole in
cooking or processed into Sesame Oil which is one of the most fragrant and
flavourful oils you can get.
and History of Sesame seeds
Whilst mostly grown in
India and the Far East nowadays, it is thought to have originated in Africa.
Evidence of the use of sesame seeds for oil and wine dates back to 3000 BC
as archeological excavations throughout the Middle East have revealed,
and the Chinese were using the oil for fuel and for making ink (by way of the
soot) as far back as 5000 years ago.
paintings in ancient Egyptian tombs
dating back 4,000 years show bakers sprinkling
sesame seeds into dough, but it wasnít until the 1st Century AD that
Europeans came across it, at which
time they were imported from India. They are mentioned by Apicius,
a cookery book writer during the Roman era, and the ancient Romans used to
grind them together with Cumin seeds to make a spread for bread amongst other
They were introduced
to America by West African slaves (they called then Benne) and during the 17th
and 18th centuries slave traders running
slave ships to the Southern States and the Caribbean
considered them good luck and added them into many dishes which are still
used in Southern US cuisine.
and Processing Sesame Seeds
sesame plant is an annual which can
grow to over 6 feet although most varieties range from 2-3 ft. It prefers a hot
climate, is drought resistant but canít tolerate frost. The flowers range from
white to lavender-pink, similar in appearance to foxglove. Once mature,
pods form which contain the sesame seedsÖ.over 100 per pod!
During the natural
maturing process, the fragile pods actually burst, scattering the seeds and
although some hybrid varieties have been developed which are more robust
enabling them to be harvested by machine, most harvesting is still done by hand
before the pods fully ripen. The
plant stalks are cut and then
shaken over a cloth to catch the seeds.
The seeds come in a
variety of colours depending on the variety, including browns, red, black,
yellow and ivory and once harvested
some are hulled and some are just cleaned. The darker seeds are said to have the
the sake of completeness, we must make mention of Sesame Oil which is obtained
from the seeds by a cold pressing process. It has a distinctive nutty flavour is
a must in oriental cooking and excellent in dressings. However, beware, it has
quite a strong flavour and should be used sparingly until you are used to its
strength. It has the added benefit of being low in cholesterol.
and Storing Sesame Seeds
Sesame seeds have a
high oil content and can quickly become rancid to it's best to buy them in small
amounts and use them relatively quickly. Seeds should be kept in an airtight
container in a cool, dry place and will last
up to three months however, if refrigerated, they will last up to six
months or up to one year if frozen.
Seed in cooking
Sesame seeds have a
slightly sweet nutty flavour which is enhanced by toasting. To toast sesame seeds, spread seeds on a baking sheet and
toast in an oven which has been preheated to 180C, 350F, Gas mark 4 for 15-20
minutes, turning several times during the period. You can also toast them in a
dry frying pan which will only take a few minutes. Shake the pan to toss the
seeds from time to time.