Hail to the Humble Sesame Seed
As a kid, I used say “Open Sesame” when walking towards an automatic door — pretending I was magic as the door slowly opened to allow my grand passage! Turns out, the phrase comes from the fact that when sesame pods ripen, they actually burst open, exposing the delicate little seeds inside!
Tiny, tear-shaped sesame seeds come from the Sesamum indicum
, an annual tropical plant that appears to be native to Africa. These days the plant is cultivated throughout Asia, India, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, South America, and even right here in the U.S. Both the seeds and the oil are a mainstay of many popular dishes from all around the world.
Nutritionally speaking, sesame seeds are a good source of copper and magnesium. Because sesame oil, while perfectly edible, is rich and emollient, it is commonly used in body care products
Sesame seeds range in color from white to black with the lighter seeds being milder in flavor and the darker seeds being stronger or “earthier.” They can be purchased whole, hulled or unhulled. The hulled seeds are ivory colored, the whole seeds are light brown, and the black seeds are an un-hulled variety. Lightly toasting the seeds really brings out the flavor! You can also purchase the seeds ground into a paste or “butter” such as tahini, or you can purchase sesame oil — refined, unrefined or toasted.
Here are some super ways to spiff-up your menus with sesame seeds:
- Love to bake bread? Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top before baking.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top of cookies, quick breads and muffins. Here is a recipe for Tahini and Sesame Seed Cookies.
- Garnish, garnish, garnish! Think: Salads, soups, stews, grain dishes, veggie dishes, noodles and even dessert. Try this delicious recipe for Sesame Noodles.
- Use tahini or sesame butter on toast, waffles, pancakes, biscuits and crackers.
- Eat prepared hummus, or make your own. Here’s how with this recipe for Simply Delicious Homemade Hummus.
- Enjoy a delicious bit of halvah — ground sweetened sesame seeds.
- Use sesame oil for stir-frying or sautéing.
- Stir a small teaspoon of toasted sesame oil along with a light splash of natural tamari into hot cooked brown rice; garnish with seaweed sprinkles and a teaspoon of sesame seeds.
- Add sesame seeds to a sauce or make a sauce with tahini. Here is an idea for Creamy Sesame Greens.
- Use sesame seeds as a coating for fish, shellfish or chicken. You will love this recipe for Sesame Scallops with Tangerines and Bok Choy.
- Sesame seeds are a perfect match for tofu and tempeh. This recipe for Tofu and Sesame Noodle Salad will prove me right!
- Make a tahini and fresh fruit sandwich sprinkled with sesame seeds – apple slices or banana will do nicely.
- Mix tahini with yogurt and spices such as cumin, coriander, sea salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Drizzle over cucumbers or other chopped fresh veggies.
Remember: Whole sesame seeds should be stored in a cool dry place. Be sure to keep them in an air-tight container. Always keep sesame oil in the fridge. For long-term storage, sesame seeds will freeze perfectly well.
Want more about sesame? Check out my blog post on tahini
Are you a slave to the humble seed? Got a sesame story you’d like to tell? Let me know!