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Open Sesame: Everything You Need to Know About the Magic Seeds

  • By JC's
  • September 18, 2019
  • In News

They’re on hamburger buns, bread, pastries and even your cereal. In fact, you might have unwittingly eaten some today. We’re talking about the humble sesame seed. Roasted, crushed, raw: however you like to enjoy them, one thing’s for certain: they should be a staple in any pantry across Australia.

If you think that these seeds have anything to do with the famous story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, you’d be correct. Upon maturation, the sesame plant’s flowers develop into pods, which contain the seeds we know and love. These pods pop open when the seeds are ready, which is where we get the saying, “Open sesame!”

Not only do they contain high nutritional value, but these delicate nuts are multi-purpose as they have the power to enhance both sweet and savoury foods. Most importantly, without sesame, there’d be no hummus!

Ready to find out more about the infamous sesame seed?

The story of sesame seeds

 

Native to Asia and East Africa and enjoyed for almost 4000 years, sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil and have been featured in many legends – in some, sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality; in others, the gods created the world and drank wine from sesame seeds.

In the 17th century, sesame seeds were brought to the US from Africa and then distributed around the world.

 

How do sesame seeds grow

 

The sesame plant looks similar to okra and is an annual flowering herb where the pods are dried and collected before they can open. Then, the seeds are sold to make into paste or sesame oil. Sesame grows all year round, so you can enjoy it whenever you feel like it (which means it’s also an affordable food!)

To grow your own at home, you’ll need an area that gets lots of sun and has warm, well drained soil. The plants themselves can grow quite large, so be sure to plant at least one metre apart to ensure there’s plenty of room to spread out. Sesame plants need 100 – 130 days to mature at which point they become ready for harvesting.

9 health benefits of sesame seeds

 

Packed with vitamins, nutrients and minerals, sesame seeds might be tiny, but they have huge health benefits. Here’s nine reasons why eating these seeds will unlock unlimited treasures…

 

  1. A great source of fibre: Three tablespoons of sesame seeds will provide you with 12% of the Recommended Dietary Intake for fibre, which is essential for your gut health. If you’re prone to an upset stomach, gas, heartburn or constipation, then up your intake of sesame seeds to improve your digestion naturally.
  2. Full of protein: Sesame seeds contain up to five grams of protein per three tablespoons, and protein makes up 20% of the seed.
  3. It can reduce blood pressure: Sesame contains magnesium, which is a key nutrient in lowering blood pressure. Recent studies have reported that sesame oil lowered blood pressure and even improved hyperglycemia in diabetes patients.
  4. Lowers cholesterol: Sesame contains phytosterols, which block cholesterol production. Black sesame seeds are particularly high in phytosterols.
  5. For glowing skin: Sesame is a zinc-rich food, which helps produce collagen. Not only does sesame oil help repair damaged body tissue and prevents the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation but regular digestion of the seed can reduce skin cancer.
  6. For bone health: Because sesame is high in copper, it can prevent and relieve arthritis. It also strengthens bones, joints and blood vessels.
  7. Hair benefits: Got dandruff? Ancient Egyptians massaged a mixture of sesame oil, ginger roots and lemon juice into their scalp. The formula was said to help with dandruff, seborrhoea and maybe even balding.
  8. Great for a healthy liver: Sesame helps you maintain a healthy liver function by protecting you from alcohol’s impact on your liver.
  9. Alleviates anaemia: For those who suffer from anaemia and weakness, it is recommended to add black sesame seeds in your diet as they are particularly rich in iron.

How to toast and roast sesame seeds

 

Accentuate the nutty flavour of sesame seeds and enjoy amazing crunch when you toast or roast this unique product. 

Toasting sesame seeds is super easy. Simply roast on a flat skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir regularly and watch as they change in colour to lightly brown. Alternatively, feel free to bake on a baking tray at 180°C for 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye out for signs of burning and be sure to stir regularly to avoid unwanted accidents.

 

Creative ways to incorporate
sesame seeds into your meals

 

Sesame is a key ingredient in several cuisines, including Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese and Japanese. Most recipes require sesame seeds to be cooked before use, so toasting them in a frying pan for just 3 minutes will turn them golden and aromatic.

Sesame seeds come in a variety of different colours: white, black, red, brown and tan. White sesame seeds are more commonly used than black sesame seeds, and both have different flavours: the white ones have a delicate, nutty flavour while the black ones have a bitter taste and are used primarily for their visual appeal.
There are many different ways to enjoy sesame seeds: you can roast them, use them as flavouring in marinades and sauces, or as a spread. If you add unhulled seeds into your cuisine, your meal may taste slightly bitter. On the other hand, if you wish to have a sweet-tasting dish, hulled sesame seeds will deliver that flavour.

 

Recipe ideas

 

Sesame chicken

 

If you’re looking to feed hungry guests, then this hearty classic will work wonders. You’ll be whipping up a marinade of honey, sweet sauce and sesame seeds that will coat delicious chicken pieces. This dish is easy to prepare and doesn’t take hours to cook. Just let the natural flavours do the talking as you delight everyone at the table with a unique and tasty dish. Our tip? Use raw sesame seeds in your marinade and roasted sesame seeds as a garnish for extra crunch.

 

Soba noodles with sesame seeds

 

Bring new life to soba noodles with this sesame seed inspired dish. This recipe involves pairing perfectly cooked soba noodles with sliced chicken or beef and steamed veggies. Be sure to add a generous drizzle of soy sauce and sprinkle with crunchy (toasted, of course) sesame seeds that add great flavour and a distinctive look. Stick to the plan and watch as this simple meal impresses friends and family to no end. Just remember to get your fill before it all disappears!

 

Sesame seed pancakes

 

This unique twist on a traditional favourite will leave everyone delighted. Our sesame seed pancakes borrow from traditional recipes but add a few elements of their own. As you might expect, you’ll be adding sesame seeds as a garnish but also as an ingredient in the batter itself. As for topping, use fresh fruit and drizzle with honey. Feel free to choose maple syrup or any other sweet alternative that you can think of.  

Try these recipes out for yourself and you’ll soon be in a world of food heaven.

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Of course, there’s no need to go nuts by just eating sesame seeds! All nuts contain nutritious value and should be combined with a healthy and balanced diet.