© Denzil Green
Sesame Seeds are oil-rich seeds with a mild, nutty flavour. European recipes generally want white sesame seeds, while Indian or Asian recipes may mean black sesame seeds which have more aroma. The seeds can also be brown or red. In North America, they are popular on hamburger buns and on bagels.
The seeds come from a plant that is native to East Africa or Indonesia. The plant is an annual herb, growing almost 1 metre (about 3 feet) tall. As the seeds mature for harvesting, they will split open easily, causing seeds to fall on the ground. For this reason, Sesame Seeds are still harvested by field hands rather than by machines.
Tahini is made from sesame seeds.
White Sesame Seeds
If just “Sesame Seeds” is mentioned in a recipe, white sesame seeds are meant. There are also black sesame seeds.
The seeds can also be sprouted. They will take 1 to 3 days to germinate, and will keep refrigerated for up to a week.
Generally, seeds should be toasted before using, as the untoasted seeds don’t have much taste.
Protein, oils, lecithin, folic acid, calcium. No cholesterol.
1 tablespoon sesame seeds = 8.75g
1/2 cup sesame seeds = 70g / 2.5 oz
1 cup sesame seeds = 140g / 5 oz
Sesame Seeds have a high, unsaturated fat content which can go rancid quickly at room temperatures. (As for all things, just how quickly will of course depend on what the room temperature of your kitchen has been the past while). So, store in a tightly-sealed container in refrigerator for up to six months. Or, freeze them for up to a year.
Fresh sesame seeds will be yellow or cream-coloured. Old or rancid ones will look greyish.
Literature & Lore
Sesame comes from the Middle English word, “sisame”, which in turn comes from the Latin, “Sesamum”, which in turn comes from the Greek “sesamon”, and yes, it has everything to do with the phrase “open sesame”. “Open sesame” is the phrase that makes things open instantly, just as Sesame Seed pods burst open very easily (making harvesting a delicate process, by the way.)
Sometimes referred to as “benne” in the American south. “Goma” in Japanese means Sesame Seeds in general; “Shiro Goma” means White Sesame Seeds.