Sesame plants are flowering plants that produce seed capsules, filled with either white or black sesame seeds. White sesame seeds are the most popular, being found commonly on hamburger buns or as a garnish with various Asian cuisines and dishes.
Where do sesame seeds come from? Originated from either East Africa or Asia depending on the historian you ask, sesame seeds come from a flowering plant which develops into a sesame fruit. It is is an annual plant, which will flower and bloom every year.\
The plants themselves grow up to six or seven feet tall. Other than your burger bun, white sesame seeds can be found in sesame oil. Sesame seed oil is used in all kinds of Eastern cuisines, mainly Chinese and Japanese dishes. However, sesame seeds are also found in Middle Eastern foods.
Hulled sesame seeds are in Tahini paste, a Middle Eastern condiment made from ground sesame seeds. A cup of sesame seeds prepared this way is a common addition to hummus, but this is just the tip of the sesame seed iceberg. This versatile plant can do so much.
What are Sesame Seeds?
The production of sesame seeds has been adapted to many soil types, with many varieties being bred for various climates. Drought tolerant varieties, for example, allow sesame to continue to be grown in California as well as Africa. Where the origin of sesame may have begun.
If you’re of the view that the origin of sesame resides in Asia, there are also varieties for wetter and more humid climates as well. These seed pods can be grown really anywhere if you get the right strain or variety, and these oilseed plants remain popular for ther produce.
When it comes to sesame products, the seeds are really the main goal. Seed pods, fruits, and flowers are all secondary to the delicious content in sesame seeds. African cuisines, American cuisines, and Asian cuisines use mainly two sesame varieties.
These are based on the color of the sesame products, black or white seeds. When it comes to oil content, either can be used, but as a garnish white remains the most popular in the Western world. Black sesame seeds remain common in a lot of Asian cuisines, as well as Polynesian foods.
Cultivars of sesame can’t really go wrong, as this versatile seed is used in so many different cuisines. As a result, you may even be tempted to try some new foods containing sesame seeds you haven’t heard of before. For most in North America, this will be African cuisines, although you should still be careful if you have a sesame allergy.
Can you Germinate Sesame Seeds?
Growing sesame from seed can be done quite easily, however you shouldn’t be using store bought packets of the special seeds. These seeds will have been hulled for sesame consumption, rather than for germination in drought conditions or whatever your climate needs.
The consumption of sesame seeds remains the most common reason for purchase, and why wouldn’t it be? Unless you have a sesame allergy, these super seeds can help control your blood pressure and combat oxidative stress!
However, hulled seeds will not make mature plants, and hulled seeds remain more appropriate for sesame consumption. Oil extraction from sesame seed is a close second, but this is not something you are likely to be doing at home.
As food products, you will have to hull your seeds yourself for sesame consumption, provided you can grow mature plants from untouched seeds. From their, the cultivation of sesame is an easy thing. These plants are near impossible to kill if you get the right variety of sesame, and are grown in North America and South America without issue.
While the origins of sesame cultivation date back to ancient Egypt, with time the process has only gotten easier. Black sesame seed varieties are popular on the West Coast and in Hawaii, where the black sesame seed varieties are paired with dishes of fish and rice native to Polynesia.
If you don’t want to grow black sesame seed varieties, raw sesame seeds can be easily farmed and grown with a little love and attention. This hardy plant, according to the origins of sesame cultivation, could grow in the extreme heats of Africa after all.
The seed of sesame plants can be a pain to extract, and the seed of sesame pods are also difficult to hull for sesame consumption. Still, sesame seed production is a relatively easy and beginner friendly introduction to crop growing at home if you would like to try.
What do Sesame Seeds Taste Well With?
West Asia and Southeast Asia (including India) produce the majority of the cultivation of sesame. Asian cuisines (Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine especially), Caribbean cuisine, Mexican cuisine, and Polynesian dishes all feature sesame often.
These nations also have a signigicant portion of the world’s sesame seed production, and sesame seed products. Raw sesame seeds, for example, require little other than hulling. However, a dish of ground sesame mixed with other ingredients will be processed in the West, much like oil products.
Sesame seed buns are also typically handled domestically, thanks to the shorter shelf life of the buns themselves. The seed of sesame plants can endure for months to years, but sesame seed buns can still go bad thanks to the bread bun itself.
Sesame paste, popular in tahini, also shortens the shelf life of some sesame seed products. While the raw seed can last years, grinding them into a sesame paste results in a life span of five to six months provided they are kept refrigerated.
Sesame mixed into sesame candy is a rarity in sesame seed production, and is more reserved for South East Asian cultures. Here the sesame mixed with sugar and other treats becomes a sesame candy, with a notoriously nutty flavor.
Where do Sesame Seeds Come From?
The origins of sesame cultivation are obvious in the cuisnes that use it frequently. Cultivation of sesame plants for sesame consumption is present in African cuisines, Asia, and Polynesia. Although sesame cultivation is often linked to China and Egypt, India is the largest exporter modernly.
Used in savory dishes of African cuisines, the consumption of sesame seeds has since spread to the West. Sesame candy, sesame paste, sesame seed buns, and ther sesame seed products are popular among American consumers and home cooks.
Raw sesame seeds are reserved for a garnish, but toasting or roasting sesame is found in Caribbean cuisine, Japanese cuisine (with sesame oils) and even Mexican cuisine. Artisan brands of seeds from West Asia and Southeast Asia are popular thanks to a growing diaspora of Thai and Arab migrants.
Nutritional Benefits of Sesame Seeds
The cultivation of sesame has boomed in recent decades as it is something of a super seed. Consumption of sesame seeds in Western diets has increased thanks to compounds in sesame being linked to positive effects on blood glucose levels.
These effects on blood glucose levels help keep blood sugar in check, while also encouraging the cultivation of sesame thanks to the compounds in sesame seeds. This combined with the increasing prevalence of Asian cuisines thanks to an Asian diaspora (particularly Chinese and Japanese cuisine) make growing sesame a no brainer choice.
Mexican cuisine has always been popular in the US, and caribbean cuisine has been popular in Great Britain, and positive effects on blood glucose levels only makes them more appealing. It’s not all good news however for Asian cuisines.
In West Asia, better known as the middle eat, e. coli in tahini is a common link being found. Bacteria coli in tahini could be a result of difficulty with food storage in West Asia, or it could result from West Asia and their cooking styles cultivating more than just a healthy source of protein.
As bad as coli in tahini and any other similar dish of ground sesame, an allergic reaction could happen. The lovely, medium texture of sesame seeds can be ruined by an allergic reaction to Asian cuisines, making you miss out on the relief of oxidative stress these seeds provide.
Compounds in sesame are still released in a dish of ground sesame, so the cultivation of sesame for drought conditions, artisan breads, gourmet cookies, as a soup ingredient, or just for human nutrition simply makes sense.