Where Do Sesame Seeds Come From? Fun Noteworthy Facts For Nutty Seeds!

Arpitha Rajendra
Jan 24, 2024 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Jade Scott
Black white and roasted sesame seeds on small wooden spoons
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.2 Min

The sesame plant gets its name from the Greek 'sesamon' and the Latin 'sesamum' that are both derivations of an ancient Semitic word, which gives it the meaning 'oil, liquid fat.'

To produce sesame oil, off-sized or immature seeds are picked out from the plants and used. Similar to other foods and seeds, some people are allergic to this form of seed too.

Sesame or Sesamum indicum is a flowering plant belonging to the Sesamum genus and is also called benne. A lot of wild relatives of this plant occur in Africa, with a few also in India. This plant is cultivated for the edible seeds in a pod and is naturalized around the world, usually in tropical regions. In the year 2018, the world production of sesame seeds was 6.6 million short tons (six million tonnes) and the largest producers were Myanmar, India, and Sudan. This seed was domesticated way back around 3,000 years ago and is one of the oldest crops used as an oilseed. These seeds have one of the highest oil contents compared to other seeds. Most of the other species of sesame are native and wild species to sub-Saharan Africa. The cultivated crop, Sesamum indicium, came from India. This crop is tolerant and can grow in drought conditions where other crops do not do well.

Sesamum indicum seeds are common around the world for their rich and nutty flavor. These sesame plants grow in habitats around sub-tropical, southern temperate, and tropical regions. It is believed that in history, Egyptians used grain flour from ground Sesamum indicum seeds. Around 5,000 years ago, the Chinese used the oil by burning it for the finest Chinese ink blocks' soot. A flower of the sesame plant can be blue, white, or purple.

If you enjoyed reading these facts to discover the answer to where do sesame seeds come from, then make sure to read some more interesting facts that answer the question where do seashells come from and where do pine nuts come from here at Kidadl.

Where do black sesame seeds come from?

Black sesame seeds are used in southeast Asia and China.

Off-white is the most traded color of sesame seeds. However, tan, black, brown, gold, gray, and red seeds also grow on sesame plants. All of these colors are the same for the fruit and the hull. By removing the hull of sesame seeds, we get the off-white seeds, whereas the color is black when the seeds are left un-hulled. As black seeds are not hulled, they taste bitter. The sesame fruit is nothing but a rectangular capsule, usually pubescent, which is grooved with a triangular beak. As sesame plants are tolerant of drought temperature, they need very little farming support. Southeast Asia and China are native regions that produce dark-colored and black sesame seeds. Black seeds are usually toasted and if overcooked, they can taste even more bitter. These seeds can also be crushed, turned into a paste (tahini), husked, or powdered. Black sesame seeds are pressed for oil to be used either as cooking or salad oil. These seeds have a strong aroma and are used in Chinese, Japanese, and south-Asian cuisine. Roasted black, brown, and tan sesame seeds are used to make gomashio, a flavoring. These seeds are also used to prepare cold-pressed oil and chikki in Manipur. These seeds can also be sprinkled on vegetables and rice.

Organic White Sesame seeds in an earthen clay pot

Where do white sesame seeds come from?

White seeds are used in the Americas, Europe, India, and West Asia.

The sesame plant is 1.6-3.3 ft (50-100 cm) tall and leaves grow up to 1.6-5.5 in (4-14 cm) long. Seed capsules (pods) measure around 0.7-3.1 in (2-8 cm) in length. The sesame plant is cut by hand after the seed capsules (pods) burst. To extract seeds, seed capsules (pods) are dried when they begin to open. The seed crop is hulled and the leftover sesame seed has an earthy and nutty taste. After harvesting, it is quite a task to dry these seeds due to their small size. Drying is necessary because when too moist the seeds can heat up and turn rancid. Light-colored and white seeds are used in the Americas, Europe, India, and West Asia although these plants can grow easily on properly fertilized farms and yield tall, healthy plants. The sesame plant is very important for several types of Middle Eastern food. Sesame seeds are turned into a paste that is called tahini and sesame oil is also used. White sesame seeds are used in sesame bars, different breads, buns, and cakes. You can easily grow sesame plants with seeds.

What are the health benefits of sesame seeds?

There are a number of benefits of eating these seeds but in moderation. They have protein, calcium, antioxidants, and can control blood sugar.

Un-hulled black seeds contain more calcium than white ones. By removing the hulls, we remove 90% of the calcium and minerals. Sesame seeds have fiber that helps with digestion. Seeds may lower the risk of disease by lowering bad cholesterol. Hulled seeds have a good amount of protein. Seeds might also lower blood pressure and improve bone health. These seeds may decrease inflammation and help in sugar control. Sesame seeds are a good source of B vitamins and antioxidants.

Can the human body digest sesame seeds?

Crushed and powdered sesame seeds are easily digested by the human body. Seeds often pass safely even if swallowed without chewing.

These 'open sesame' seeds when swallowed without proper chewing will not get digested and come out whole. However, black seeds help cure constipation because they have unsaturated fatty acids and high fiber content. The oil from these seeds is known to lubricate human intestines and the fiber improves bowel movements. These seeds need to be eaten within the recommended limit, however, to avoid side effects like changes to blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for Where do sesame seeds come from? Fun noteworthy facts for nutty seeds! then why not take a look at Where do peanuts come from? Do you know your peanut butter well?, or Where do oats come from? Know all facts about the healthy breakfast?

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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