Organic Black Sesame Seeds
Sesame Seeds are one of the oldest spices. Thought to have originated in India, these seeds come from the Sesamum indicum plant. The first written records of sesame seeds come over 5,000 years ago in 3,000 BCE. While there are a few varieties of sesame seeds, the lighter ones are more popular in Middle Eastern and Western cuisines, and the darker colored ones are popular in Asian cuisines.
Organic Black Sesame Seeds are rich in fatty oils. The seeds are 45% to 65% fixed oil, made up of mostly oleic acid, but no perceptible volatile oils. Sesame seeds have antioxidant properties thanks to the sesamol present in the fixed oil.
Sesame seed is called "sem sem" or "juljulan" in Arabic, "zi mah" in Mandarin, "till" in French, "sesam" in German, "gingili" or "til" in Hindi, "goma" in Japanese, "gergelim" in Portuguese, "kunzhut" in Russian, and "ajinjoli" in Spanish.
In the Indus Valley site in what is now Pakistan, archeologists found evidence of the oldest sesame seeds ever discovered. These seeds were over four thousand years old! This discovery implied that the sesame plant had been domesticated in this region. Further discoveries of sesame trace it to Mesopotamia in 2000 BCE and then in Egypt by 1500 BCE. This seems to suggest a trade route between these areas that included not only goods and services, but probably spices as well. The Babylonians of Mesopotamia used sesame seeds for oil, pressing them for what is thought to be the only source of oil in Babylon during this time period. Sesame seeds appeared in India and China, with the Chinese versions eventually spreading across other parts of Asia and Europe thanks to the Silk Road. The widespread, quick adoption of sesame seeds into everyday life across the globe has made it very difficult to track the origins of the name in an etymological standpoint.
Sesame seeds found their way to the United States through the slave trade. African slaves who were uprooted from their homes brought with them these seeds that they called "benne seeds." African slave food culture and influence is why today there are many southern dishes with sesame seeds incorporated.
Black sesame seeds grow on the sesame plant. This plant prefers a well-drained but well-watered sandy loam soil that has a neutral pH. It does best in warmer or hot climates but has adapted to live in warm climates with different soil types, as long as the soils aren't high in sodium content. It grows best in India, China, Korea, Egypt, and East Africa. The plant is drought tolerant because of its vast, deep root system. Seeds grow inside of seed pods that are sometimes called "buns." When fully ripe, the seed pods will burst, so usually growers will remove the seed pods by hand before they are fully ripe and store them in an upright position so they can harvest the seeds once the pods burst. Sesame only takes about 90-120 days to mature, and the grower will recognize maturation in the color change. Plants go from green to yellowish-brown when they begin to mature. The plants can grow as tall as six feet in optimal conditions. Soils that are too wet will encourage bacterial diseases that effect the root systems of sesame, but the plants can also be damaged from simply being in high humidity. The plant does not do well with excess water.
Our Organic Black Sesame Seeds come from India.
Three types of sesame seeds exist. There is very little difference between the three types of sesame seeds. They all taste similar, though black sesame seeds are said to be a little more intensely flavorful.
- White- these seeds are the most common. They are actually the hulled version of the other two types of sesame seeds, so they can come from either the golden or the black sesame seeds.
- Golden- These seeds are also called "brown" sesame seeds. They are tan or gold in color and look toasted and show up in Western cuisines.
- Black- These seeds are more common in Asian cuisines. They are thought to be slightly stronger tasting and have a slightly higher calcium content than the lighter varieties.
Organic Black Sesame Seeds are perfect for rolling sushi in or for the Japanese condiment goma shio, which is sometimes called gomasio. The Japanese also use black sesame to make shichimi togarashi, a delicious spice blend used mostly for fish-based dishes. This is a condiment that is usually added to rice-based dishes, salads, and vegetable dishes. In Chinese cuisine, black sesame seeds are used on a coating for toffee apples and bananas. They are used to flavor stir-fries, chicken, and fish. They give a nice nutty flavor and some interesting texture. In American cuisine, black sesame is good with beans, eggplant, leafy vegetables, honey, citrus, noodles, and zucchini. They are also good in our recipe for Thai Basil Chicken Soup.
For a lovely bread topping, simply mix some black sesame seeds together with fennel and poppy seeds and add them to egg washed loaves before you put them in the oven. This is a nice blend to make an olive oil dip with, as well!
When you are combining black sesame with other spices, try cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, pepper, sumac, and thyme.
Black sesame is thought to be a little more bitter once it has been dry roasted so plenty of people use them as is, but Japanese chefs swear that lightly roasting them for only 5-7 minutes in the oven gives them an extremely desirable nutty flavor. These chefs are careful to stir the seeds up once at the halfway mark. Even one minute extra in the oven will cause the seeds to completely overcook.
Sesame seeds are almost never used as a powder. They are so high in oil content that they are much more easily converted to tahini, or sesame paste, than they are to a powder form. Sesame seeds are instead used whole, which is the more suitable way to use them in cooking, especially for their notable crunch. The crunch is of course entirely lost when sesame is ground or made into tahini.
Organic Black Sesame Seeds have a richer flavor that is just slightly nuttier than its counterparts, the white or golden sesame seeds.
Any sesame seeds can be used in exchange for other sesame seeds, since they have similar flavor profiles. You can substitute at a one to one ratio. You may prefer to use a lighter colored seed for a lighter colored recipe, or a darker colored seed for a pop of color in an otherwise pale recipe. If you are completely in a pinch and have absolutely zero sesame seeds on hand, poppy seeds taste similarly nutty and have a bit of crunch to them as well. They can also be used as a replacement in a one to one ratio.