Sesame Seeds: A Culinary Odyssey from Antiquity to Modernity
Tiny sesame seeds are known for their distinctive flavour and culinary versatility. They also have a wealth of history behind them going back thousands of years. Originating in tropical regions of Africa, these seeds have taken a fascinating journey over time and have played a notable role in different cultures and cuisines.
Sesame seeds (Sesamum indicum) have their roots in Africa, where they have been grown for over 5000 years. Their adaptability to different climatic conditions and their resistance have made them a valuable crop for communities in tropical and subtropical climates.
Dissemination in the Old World:
Sesame seeds expanded from Africa along the trade routes to Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. Ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians and Babylonians realised the value of these seeds, using them for food and also in religious rituals.
Historical and Religious Uses:
In antiquity, sesame seeds were believed to have sacred properties and were considered a symbol of immortality in some cultures Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine also attribute curative properties to these seeds, where they were used in different formulations.
Cuisine and Asian Culture:
Sesame seeds were readily adopted in Asian cuisine, where they became an essential ingredient. From tahini in the Middle East to gomashio in Japan, sesame seeds have left a lasting mark in regional gastronomy. Sesame seed oil is used as a common basis for many dishes in China, not only because of its flavour, but also because of its characteristic aroma.
These small seeds contain a surprising amount of nourishment. They are an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, and also contain healthy fats and antioxidants. Their nutritional profile has contributed to their status as a superfood, adding a wealth of flavour to our dishes, and also to our health.
Sesame seeds today are used in a variety of ways. From salad dressings to bread, biscuits and sushi, their presence in global cuisine is undeniable. Sesame seed oil has become a key ingredient in Asian cuisine and it is also used in international cuisine to give a special touch to different dishes.