Sesame seeds are the dried, oval-shaped seeds of the herb Sesamum indicum. Sesame seeds are harvested by hand. The seeds have a rich nut-like flavor when toasted. Sesame seeds contain 25 percent protein.
Sesame seeds are used to add texture and flavor to a variety of breads, rolls, crackers and salad dressings. Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian seasoning blends use crushed, whole and toasted sesame seeds for flavor and texture.
Most of the sesame seed sold in the United States is grown in Mexico, Central America and China.
Sesame seed may be the oldest condiment known to humans and probably was the first crop grown for its edible oil. The Babylonians made sesame cakes, wine and brandy and used the oil for cooking and toiletries. Sesame was used by the Egyptians as a medicine as early as 1500 B.C. "Open Sesame" was the magical password that opened the entrance to the cave in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. This reference is perhaps attributable to the fact that ripe sesame seed pods open with a sharp pop at the slightest touch. Late in the 17th and 18th centuries, slaves brought the seed to America. In some parts of the South, it is still known as "benne," which is its name in the African Bantu languages.
Flavor & Aroma
Sesame is generally described as having a mild, nut-like flavor which intensifies when toasted. It is characterized by nutty, oily, green and bitter flavor notes.