Ingredient Information

Sesame Seed (Organic)

Function

Sesame is grown primarily for its seeds, which come in a variety of colors from cream-white to charcoal-black. Sesame seeds are tiny oval shaped oil-rich seeds that are extensively used in cooking.

Seeds are added while preparing multi-grain breads and bagels, and are used as seasoning on top of hamburgers and Japanese sushi dishes. Sesame seeds are also added to and baked with crackers. Sesame seeds offer a nutty flavor and are highly nutritious. Processed sesame seeds offer a rich addition to sweet confections, chips, cookies, candy and Chinese dim sum. Sesame seeds are sprinkled on breads, cakes, cookies and candies, and are the source of valuable oil in most of Asia.

Sesame oil is used as cooking oil in some parts of the world. In Japan, sesame sits on most tables and is used as a flavoring, much as salt and pepper are used in the West. The sesame is ground on to the food right at the table. In Japan, sesame is also fried until it pops, giving a unique flavor. In Korea, whole seeds are added to many sauces used in daily meals. Chinese and Koreans also use them in their cuisines. In the Middle East, sesame is ground into a paste known as tahini. In the Saudi Arabian desert, tahini is a staple in the diet of the Bedouins. The tahini is also eaten by itself as an energy food. Sesame seeds are popular in Indian cuisine. They are an essential ingredient in the preparation of some rice dishes, desserts, toffees and husked wheat dishes.

In North America and Europe, they are added to muffins and cookies. Also, sesame paste is mixed with peanut butter to enhance flavor and extend its shelf-life. Sesame seeds are the pods of sesame plant, the scientific name of which is Seasmum Indicum.

100g of sesame seeds contains 48g of fat, 26g of carbohydrate and 17g of protein.

Other Use and Industries

Women in ancient Babylon used to eat a sweet treat made from sesame seeds called "halva" for youth, beauty and strength. Oil extracted from the seeds is used in oil lamps, massages and Ayurvedic medicine in India for burn treatments. It is used as a cosmetic oil, as well as a solvent in intravenous drips and drug injections all around the world. It is also used as an alternative medicine in some parts of the world. Sesame oil is also used in the manufacture of soaps, paints, perfumes, pharmaceuticals and insecticides. Even though the price of sesame oil is 3 times higher than most oils, the amount consumed is still increasing. Sesame oil is further refined and used extensively in cosmetics, particularly in facial creams. In India, its effects on human skin have long been known, and many bathe with sesame oil regularly.

Increasingly, processors are extracting minor components from sesame oil, such as sesamin, which can be bought from commercial sources. One Japanese company puts sesamin in pills and markets them for reducing hangovers. Sesame oil is also used in many intra-muscular injections as a carrier to spread the medicine faster. Many insecticides use sesame oil as a synergist for the active agent.

Sesame meal, what is left after the oil is pressed from the seed, is an excellent high-protein (34-50%) feed for poultry and livestock.

Sesame is used in flower gardens, as it provides for flowers over a 30-40 day period. Gardeners use sesame as a companionate plant because it inhibits root knot nematodes.

Decorators use sesame stems in dry arrangements.

In the United States, sesame is used to attract and feed game birds. In Ohio and Oklahoma, farmers plant sesame on ditch banks and along wooded creeks to sustain quail and pheasants. In South Carolina, farmers still call sesame by the name of beniseed, and plant it for dove hunting.

Health Effects

Sesame seeds are tremendously rich in zinc, magnesium, iron, copper and calcium. The seeds contain phytoestrogens, which are rich in antioxidants, like anti-carcinogenic lignans, which can reduce the risk of cancer. Phytosterols in the sesame seeds, along with high levels of vitamin E are associated with reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood stream.

Sesame seeds also protect the body from free-radical damage. The magnesium content can be supportive to respiratory health and vascular health. Copper offers relief from rheumatics and arthritis, whereas magnesium in the sesame seeds supports the respiratory tract. Calcium is good for preventing colon cancer and pre-menstrual symptoms.

Sesame seeds also help in relieving migraines, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, as well as constipation caused by inactivity. Other benefits include the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and arthritis.

Sesame seed oil is considered good for the joints and maintaining flexibility. It also protects the skin from the effects of chlorine in swimming pools.

Sesame seeds are used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine to treat burns. They are also used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for hair loss and as a liver tonic. One outstanding health benefit that sesame oil boasts of is its ability to control stress levels by greatly reducing it. Stress is actually one of the key contributory factors to many complicated health conditions.

Sesame seeds may produce an allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis.

Origins

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is native to the Old Word tropics, and is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Sesame oil is not mentioned in the Bible, but appears to have been important in non-Hebrew cultures some 2,000-4,000 years ago. It was a highly prized oil crop of Babylon and Assyria.

Today, India and China are the world's largest producers of sesame, followed by Burma, Sudan, Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Turkey, Uganda and Ethiopia. Sesame was introduced to the United States in the 1930s. Domestic production has been limited because of the lack of cultivars that can be harvested mechanically. In 1987, the sesame acreage in this country was less than 2,500 acres, about half of which were in Texas. The United States imports about 40,000 tons of sesame seed and 2,200 tons of sesame oil annually, primarily from South America.

Sesame is a broadleaf plant that grows about 5-6 feet tall, depending on the variety and growing conditions. The plants have white, bell-shaped flowers, each about an inch long. Seed capsules are 1-1.5 inches long, with eight rows of seeds in each capsule. Some varieties are branched, while others are unbranched. The light colored seeds are small and flat, with a point on one end. Sesame is a long season crop, taking about 125-135 days to mature. The plant is adaptable to many soil types, but thrives best in well-drained, fertile soils of medium texture and neutral pH.

Sesame is now found in most of the tropical, subtropical and southern temperate areas of the world. Although a major world oilseed crop, sesame is primarily grown by small farmers in developing countries in the southern latitudes.

Sesame is principally grown for its seeds, but the obtaining of them is a labor-intensive process. Sesame seeds are tightly packed in an outer covering, and it takes a long time before the seeds ripen. Cultivators have to cut the plant and hold the seeds upright before the seeds are cracked and released on a cloth base.

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