Saturday, October 10, 2009


Sesame, also called BENNE, oldest herb known for its seeds, which are used as food and flavouring for foods, or the oil crushed from the seeds. The whole seed is used in Near Eastern confectionery, such as halvah, and to flavour various foods, particularly breads and baked goods. The aroma of sesame seed is faintly nutlike; the taste is agreeable, similar to toasted nuts. The chief constituent of sesame seed is its fixed oil, which usually amounts to about 44 to 60 percent. Noted for its stability, the oil resists oxidative rancidity. It is used as a salad or cooking oil, in shortening and margarine, and in the manufacture of soaps, pharmaceuticals, and lubricants. Sesame oil is used as an ingredient in cosmetics. The press cake remaining after the oil is expressed is a rich source of protein, especially methionine, calcium, phosphorus, and niacin; it is eaten by the poor and used as cattle feed.

Ancient in its origins, sesame probably originated in Asia or East Africa, then spread to most of the tropical, subtropical, and southern temperate areas of the world, Before the time of Moses, the Egyptians used the ground seed as grain flour.

The Chinese used it 5,000 years ago, and for centuries they have burned the oil to make soot for the finest Chinese ink blocks. The Romans ground sesame seeds with cumin to make a pasty spread for bread. Once it was thought to have mystical powers, and sesame still retains a magical quality as shown in the expression “open sesame,” from The Arabian Nights tale of “All Baba and The Forty Thieves.”

The plant, Sesamw’n mdi cam, is an erect annual of many types and varieties belonging to the family Pedaliaceae. It is cultivated in Central America, Brazil, Egypt, India, Thailand (where it is called tee!), and Texas. Depending on conditions, varieties grow from about 2 to 9 feet (½ to 21/2 metres) tall; some have branches, others do not. One to three flowers appear in the leaf axils. Hulled seeds are creamy or pearly white, about 0.1 inch (3 millimetres) long, and have a flattened pear shape. The seed capsules open when dry, allowing the seed to scatter. Considerable hand labour is needed in harvesting to prevent loss. In 1943 a nonscattering mutant was discovered, making mechanized production of this crop a possibility. Andrew Collier


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