Interesting Facts About Sesame Seeds

Growing up in Mumbai, the best part of having many Mahrashtrian friends was the unlimited supply of "Tilgul" (sweet ladoos made with sesame seeds) during Makar Sankranti. In fact,we loved running from door to door screaming "Tilgul ghya ,god god bola" and relishing til ladoos given by generous ladies of the society. As kids, we were unaware of the health benefits of sesame seeds or that this annual herb, may grow as high as seven feet tall, is one of the oldest oil seed crop known to mankind. Loaded with health benefits and available in many varieties - white, yellow, red and black, sesame seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients and essential minerals. Lets know more about sesame seeds also known as "Butter of the Middle East".

 

Harvested from the pods of a flowering plant (sesamum indicum), sesame seeds are known to have been originated in tropical regions like India or Africa. The white to lavender-pink bell shaped flowers, mature into pods, which burst open when the small sesame seeds reach maturity. Since this may scatter the seeds, the harvesting process is often done by hand before sesame seeds are fully mature.



A Little Bit of History:

According to one legend, when gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. Domesticated almost 3000 years ago, the phrase "Open sesame" from the Arabian Nights, reflects the feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when mature. Charred remains of sesame recovered  from archeological excavations have been dated to as early as 3500-3050 BC. According to a few records, the Chinese used sesame oil in their lamps as far back as 5,000 years ago, while others state sesame seeds were introduced into China about 2,000 years ago.



Interesting Facts About Sesame Seeds:
  • The leading producers of sesame seeds in the world are India, Myanmar, China, Nigeria and Tanzania.
  • In India, sesame seeds are extensively used in sacred rituals and are considered a symbol of immortality. The plant is also known as a survivor crop and can even grow during droughts.
  • Ayurveda recommends using sesame oil for a body massage to balance Vata dosha and help relieve stress.

  
  • Since ancient times, women are known to eat sesame seeds to preserve their beauty and youth. Some records show, Roman soldiers consuming sesame seeds to keep their strength.
  • Since sesame seeds are quite small, you need almost 500 seeds to make a yield of 100 grams.
  • Black sesame seeds apart from many health benefits are known to reduce greying of hair.
  • Sesame seeds were brought into America by the African slaves during the 17th century and during 1930s the major vegetable oil used in America was sesame oil.
  • During ancient times, Arabs used sesame seeds and sesame oil to make a nourishing recipe that provided sustenance during long caravan trips through the hot, dry desert. Breadcrumbs kneaded with pitted dates, almonds, pistachios and sesame oil to moisten the mixture were rolled into balls. A coating of sesame seeds was applied over the balls for added nourishment.
  • In Middle East, sesame seeds are used to make Halva (dessert) and Tahini (a spread ) extensively. Tong sui is a very popular soup in Cantonese cuisine made with black sesame seeds. In Korea, Sannakji - a part of raw fish dishes is made by cutting octopus that is still alive and serving it with sesame seeds.

Tahini

Halva

  • Sesame seeds are gluten free and hence can be eaten by people suffering from celiac disease.
  • Sesame seeds contain special fibers called sesamin and sesamolin that may help lower cholesterol, help regulate blood pressure and are a great source of Vitamin E.
  • Sesame oil is exceptionally resistant to rancidity and is used in producing margarine, soap making, pharmaceuticals, paints, and lubricants.


Stay tuned to read our next blog that covers easy recipes with sesame seeds.

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