According to historical research, the cultivation of sesame might have started before 3000 B.C. in the NileRiverValley in Egypt. Records also show that it was used not only for food, but also for lamps, incense and medicines in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
In China, sesame has been excavated from the ruins of the Yellow River civilization, which flourished around 3000 B.C., showing that it was cultivated from ancient times. But fully-fledged dissemination has taken place around 50 B.C. when Buddhism was introduced at that point. The demand for sesame dramatically increased because it was used for ritual lamp oil. It is said that at this time sesame also became popular in food culture. Therefore, sesame and sesame oil were used abundantly in cooking.
Annual production of sesame in the worldwide is about 3.5 million tons. The top 3 countries are China, India and Myanmarwhere responsible for 55% of worldwide production. Sesame is an annual grass, the Sesamum genus of the Pedaliaceae family, native to the African savanna. It is now cultivated widely from tropical to temperate areas. Sesame is categorized into a tropical and temperate area which also has about 3,000 different types. Tropical sesame is tall and grows to almost 2m, while temperate sesame cultivated in Japan and other countries grows to about 1m. In temperate areas, the sesame seeds are sown early summer and sprout out in about 3 to 5 days. Then sesame plants grow up rapidly under the mid-summer scorching sunlight and bloom in order from their lowest buds.
Flowers of sesame plants bloom in order up the stem 40 to 50 days after sowing the seeds, stretching the stem upward. Its trumpet-shaped flowers in several colors such as white, pink and violet come out from the base of its leaves. “Capsules” closely packed with seeds are produced 30 to 40 days after the petals fall. When these capsules are dried, they split open and grains inside the capsules jump out. So sesame plants are reaped before all capsules ripen and pop, and seeds are harvested due to beating the plants, which have been dried against a wall. These seeds are sesame.
Sesame seeds are small, flat oval seeds with a nutty taste. They come in a host of different colors, depending upon the variety, including white, yellow, black and red. Sesame seeds are highly valued for their high content of sesame oil which has twice oil of soybeans by seed weight andthe oil is very resistant to rancidity. Sesame seeds are the main ingredients in both tahini and the Middle Eastern sweet treat, halvah. Although sesame has 50% fat or more, it doesn’t oxidize easily which means it can be preserved a very long time. It has also about 20% of protein. This higher nutritional value compared to other coarse cereals, fruit and vegetables might have promoted its spread to different regions.For more sesame benefits please refer to Q:Why Sesame ? Black vs White