Hulled Sesame Seeds sold with its seed coat removed (decorticated), this variety is often present on top of baked goods in many countries.

Sesame is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum, also called benne. Numerous wild relatives occur in Africa and a smaller number in India. It is widely naturalized in tropical regions around the world and is cultivated for its edible seeds, which grow in pods or “buns”. The world harvested 6.2 million metric tonnes of sesame seeds in 2014, with Tanzania, India, and Sudan as the largest producers.

Sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Sesamum has many other species, most being wild and native to sub-Saharan Africa. Sesamum indicum, the cultivated type, originated in India and is tolerant to drought-like conditions, growing where other crops fail.

Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. With a rich, nutty flavor, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world. Like other nuts and foods, it can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Processing

Sesame seeds are protected by a capsule which only bursts when the seeds are completely ripe. This is called dehiscence. The dehiscence time tends to vary, so farmers cut plants by hand and place them together in an upright position to continue ripening until all the capsules have opened. The discovery of an indehiscent mutant (analogous to nonshattering domestic grains) by Langham in 1943 began the work towards development of a high-yielding, dehiscence-resistant variety. Although researchers have made significant progress in sesame breeding, harvest losses due to dehiscence continue to limit domestic US production.

Since sesame is a small, flat seed, it is difficult to dry it after harvest because the small seed makes movement of air around the seed difficult. Therefore, the seeds need to be harvested as dry as possible and stored at 6% moisture or less. If the seed is too moist, it can quickly heat up and become rancid.

After harvesting, the seeds are usually cleaned and hulled. In some countries, once the seeds have been hulled, they are passed through an electronic colour-sorting machine that rejects any discolored seeds to ensure perfect colour. This is done because sesame seeds with consistent appearance are perceived to be of better quality by consumers, and sell for a higher price.

Immature or off-sized seeds are removed and used for sesame oil production.

Health effects

A meta-analysis showed that sesame consumption produced small reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Sesame oil studies reported a reduction of oxidative stress markers and lipid peroxidation.

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