We love these tiny seeds! Sesame seeds are likely to have originated in Asia or East Africa; they have been widely used worldwide in foods, traditional medicines, and industrial use.
Chinese have used sesame for at least 5,000 years as food, flavoring, and oil to make ink blocks. In nearby cultures like Japan and Korea, sesame seeds are used very similarly. Around the world, ancient Egyptian tomb paintings dated 4,000BC showed that the seeds were used in bread dough, and Roman time books mention sesame seeds in foods.
"Open sesame" in the Arabian Nights tells us that sesame seeds must have been thought to have mystic powers that its name was used as a magic password. In reality, as we know now, these tiny seeds are nutrition powerhouses that one may say it's almost magical!
Nutrition & Benefits
Sesame seeds are rich in polyunsaturated oil, namely omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. And with the rich oil content, they are also excellent sources of antioxidants vitamin E, lignan, sesamol, and phytosterols.
Together these compounds work to fight against free radicals and may help protect you from chronic diseases. Sesamol, in particular, has also been found to be anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-hepatotoxic.
Studies suggest consuming sesame oil may protect the heart by lowering LDL and regulating blood sugar. Other known uses of sesame oil include strengthening hair, nourishing the skin, and protecting against sun damage.
These seeds are also packed with proteins, minerals such as manganese and calcium, and B vitamins. These are essential nutrients for bones, muscles, the nervous system, hormones, cell growth, and energy management.
There are endless ways to include sesame or sesame oil in your foods!
In cuisines such as Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, sesame oil is used in cooking, seasoning, or as a base in making sauces and gravy; sesame seeds are sprinkled on foods or blended into a cream as a dessert on its own or filling for pastries and dumplings.
In some Chinese regions, soups made with sesame oil are served as a tonic for special seasons in life. For Example, postpartum mothers are often are given soup "sesame oil chicken soup" to help with recovery. In winter, ginger duck soup and mutton hot pot made by frying ginger and herbs in sesame oil before adding rice wine are served as delicacies to help keep warm and improve circulation.
In most European and North American cuisines, sesame seeds are mostly sprinkled as toppings to dishes or added in pastries and bread for their nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
Sesame seed butter, which you can easily make or find in neighborhood supermarkets, is a blend of roasted sesame seeds, oil, and salt. It can be served with bread or used in desserts or as an ingredient in other dishes.
You can also start the blend with raw sesame seeds and add garlic, lemon juice, and spices to make Tahini, a famous, flavorful dip in Middle Eastern cuisines. And, you can't miss sesame cookies and Halva, a candy made with sesame paste, nuts, honey, rosewater, and cream. Someone even wrote, "what sesame seed is to the Lebanese is what parmesan cheese is to the Italians."
In short, you can see how widely loved sesame is and how versatile it can be. Perhaps there is a traditional dish in your culture that calls for sesame, or you want to get your hands on making your first sesame seed butter for your family. Better yet, search for new recipes and dishes that make use of these unique tiny seeds.