Open sesame! Most people associate the name sesame with this command, given by Ali Baba to gain access to the thieves’ den in the Tales of 1001 Nights. It’s thought that the bursting and scattering action of the ripe seed pods inspired what might be a rather tenuous link! This fragrant, nutty seed has been prized for its high quality oil throughout the ages.
How to Cook
Grind into a paste to to make tahini or blend with chickpeas to make hummus. Use the seeds for crunchy coatings or to add zing to breads.
Although they’re tiny, sesame seeds are packed with nutrients. They contain essential minerals such as manganese, calcium, iron and copper and they’re also rich in two fascinating substances known as sesamin and sesamolin. These could help lower your cholesterol.In Ayurvedic medicine, sesame oil is said to promote growth, strengthen the memory, act as an antitoxin, help aganist burning sensations and promote lactation in nursing mothers.
Sesame oil was used in Mesopotamia, and tablets detailing accounts and receipts for the day-to-day running of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, (600BC), list ‘best quality sesame oil’. This is backed up by histories written by the ancient Greek scholars, which record that the plant was cultivated for the oil extracted from the seeds in Babylon. In the 1st century, Dioscorides described how the inhabitants of Sicily sprinkled sesame seeds over their breads. The name ’sesame’ is believed to be derived from the Ancient Egyptian word, sesemt – one of the few to have passed to us in modern time – and records indicate that it was cultivated there by around the 4th century BC. It was also grown further south on the continent and gathered from the wild, especially in West Africa, where it was known as benni, a name the slaves from the region took with them to the Americas when both were transported there by the slave trade.