Spice Up Your Life
There are all kinds of ways that we can spice up our life. Some of it comes from tree bark, others come from various roots, beans, and other plant matter. Some of them even require a level of processing to make it edible. So, we are going to talk about a few herbs and spices that can upscale your nutritional and cooking needs. So, let’s look at the interesting spice that made its debut as an entryway password…
Sesame seeds, when left alone to grow into a crop becomes a sesame plant with the scientific name Sesamum Indicum. The stalk of these sesame plants makes their own sesame fruit which in turn produce more seeds.
Normally, they grow throughout the tropical and subtropical areas in Asia, Africa, and South America. They are rich in oil, protein, mineral ash, crude fiber, oxalates, and soluble carbohydrates and phytate. They have a plethora of both nutritional, medicinal, and cosmetic benefits, which has motivated many civilizations to cultivate and utilize the seeds in practically any field that they can. Also, it is a little on the nutty side, making them not as noticeably drastic in comparison to spices that have “heat” to them.
But what makes them highly sought after? What is it about them that makes them so important in our daily lives? And why do we only use the seeds?
History of the Sesame Seed
The sesame plant is one of, if not the oldest oil crop known to human history. Its recorded history and significance go as far back as Ancient Babylon and Assyrian empire, over 4,000 years ago. To put that in perspective, they are the second and third oldest empires in the history of mankind. Even then, the age of the crop somewhat overlaps with the oldest empire in human history, the Akkadian empire. In the Hindu religion, the seeds were part of sacred ritual and worship. In Egypt, people would grind them up to make flour for bread. It even made its way to China during the Han Dynasty in 200 CE. There can be no overstatement made in just how important sesame seeds were throughout the ages in the Middle East and Asia.
This is because the seeds both hold a botanical and nutritional significance to these civilizations.
The Botany of Sesame Plants
The interesting thing about the sesame plant is that it is a plant of contradiction and unpredictability. It is adaptive to a lot of different soil types, but at the same time cannot be at its best with exposure to colder temperatures or a waterlogged climate. While they can grow in abundance and technically be cultivated, the plants do not have a specific time table for maturity. They are a plant that grows well under the supervision and intervention of small farms but does outright terribly with machine farming.
Even drawing the line between which seeds are wild or domestic are somewhat difficult for scholars because of how the plant matures. “Identifying wild from domestic sesame is somewhat difficult, in part because sesame isn’t completely domesticated: people have not been able to specifically time the maturing of the seed. The capsules split open during the maturing process, leading to varying degrees of seed loss and unripe harvesting. This also makes it likely that spontaneous populations will establish themselves around cultivated fields.”
If I were to describe the plant as a personality type, I would say that it very much marches to the beat of its own drum. So, what makes all this difficulty worth it? What does it do to benefit us nutritionally?
Sesame Seed Nutritional Advantages
The first interesting thing that should be addressed is that sesame seeds have a good amount of oil and fiber. This, in combination with the vitamins and minerals that are inside each seed, it is no wonder why it is still a staple. The long term benefits of sesame seeds in the daily diet include but are not limited to:
- Vitamin E, something that can, “reduce the appearance of burns and marks on the skin, as well as signs of premature aging.”
- Zinc, a vital component in the formation of collagen, which strengthens the muscle tissue, hair, and skin.
- Antioxidants, micronutrients which help fight chemical reactions that may damage your cells and increase your risk of many chronic diseases.
- Selenium – Sesame seeds have this nutrient in them, which is responsible for thyroid hormone production.