Sesame:Origin,History,Etymology and Mythology.


Sesame:Origin,History,Etymology and Mythology.

Origin and Habitat of Sesame.

Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum  Sesame is an erect, annual plant Sesamum indicum L., or Sesamum Orientale, of numerous types and varieties belonging to the family Pedaliaceae, cultivated since antiquity for its seeds, which are used as food and flavoring and from which a prized oil is extracted. The name goes back to Greek seesamon, which in turn was probably loaned from an Afro-Asiatic language (cf. Arabic saasim). There are two kinds of sesame, black and white.

 Probably originating in Asia, the Chinese used it 5,000 years ago, and for centuries they have burned the oil to make soot for the finest Chinese ink blocks. Records show it has been cultivated in parts of India around 1600 BC. From there it was brought to Europe, grown in Egypt, and its value both medicinally and for cooking gradually spread throughout Europe. The Romans ground sesame seeds with cumin to make a pasty spread for bread. Once it was thought to have mystical powers, and sesame still retains a magical quality, as shown in the expression "open sesame," from the Arabian Nights tale of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." In Africa, the seeds, called benne, were eaten as food as well as being used for oil and the seeds were taken by the slaves to America where it has been a cultivated food crop ever since.

 The whole seed is used extensively in the cuisines of the Middle East and Asia. Halvah is a confection made of crushed and sweetened sesame seeds. In Europe and North America, the seeds are used to flavor and garnish various foods, particularly bread and other baked goods. The aroma and taste of sesame seed are mild and nutlike.

 Sesame oil is used as a salad or cooking oil, in shortening and margarine, and in the manufacture of soaps, pharmaceuticals, and lubricants. It is used as an ingredient in cosmetics. The press cake remaining after the oil is expressed is highly nutritious.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum Sesame is now found in most of the tropical, subtropical, and southern temperate areas of the world. Although a major world oilseed crop, sesame is primarily grown by small farmers in developing countries in the southern latitudes.

 The plants grow best in tropical climates, from spring to fall. Depending on conditions, varieties grow from about 0.5 to 2.5 m tall. The annual, erect plants, some have branches, others do not. The ovate leaves are opposite, grow alternately up the stem and are deeply veined. The flowers are white and shaped like a trumpet, on short peduncles in axils of leaves. One to three flowers appear in the leaf axils.

 The fruit, about 2.5 cm long, is an oblong capsule with small seeds. Each plant may grow 15-20 fruits, which contain 70-100 seeds each. Plants and fruits will reach maturity in 80-100 days after sowing. When the seeds are ripe the capsule bursts open suddenly and scatters its seeds. The hulled seeds are creamy or pearly white and about 3 mm long and have a flattened pear shape. In the Orient, the matured whole plants are harvested and set in the field for 5-10 days under the sun, resulting the capsule tips to dry and crack, and then remove the seed capsule for collecting seeds inside. The tiny seeds are flat, shiny and egg-shaped and according to the variety, are either greyish-white, red, brown or black.

 Black Sesame Plant in Field Total world production of sesame in 1986 was 2.4 million metric tons, 65% of which was produced in Asia. The U.S. is the largest importer of sesame, importing about 40,000 metric tons per year, mostly from Mexico. Almost all sesame consumed in the U.S. is as a spice for food products such as hamburger buns and other bakery goods. Minor uses of sesame oil include pharmaceutical and skin care products and as a synergist for insecticides.

 Sesame grows best in sandy well-drained soil and a hot climate with moderate rainfall. It is propagated by seed sown in Spring and it takes about four months for the seeds to ripen fully. The crop is then cut, tied in bundles and threshed. After threshing, the seeds are cleaned and dried and usually hulled.

History of Sesame Seed.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum Sesame is one of the oldest seeds known to man. Thought to have originated in India or Africa, the first written record of sesame dates back to 3,000 BC. According to Assyrian mythology, sesame's origins go back even farther - there is a charming myth about the Gods imbibing sesame seed wine the night before they created the earth. References can be found to Babylonians using sesame oil, and to Egyptians growing their own sesame to make flour. Of course, Persia, the birthplace of the 1001 Arabian Nights, has long been savvy to sesame's benefits. Ancient Persians relied on it both as a food and for its medicinal qualities.

 Farther east, it's unclear when sesame first found its way to China. Some sources claim the Chinese were using sesame oil in their lamps as far back as 5,000 years ago, while others state sesame seeds were introduced into China about 2,000 years ago. It's probably true that the ancients first relied on the sesame plant to provide oil, and only later discovered its value as a food source. In the Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson concludes that sesame "...was probably introduced into China early in the Christian era, but the first firm evidence of it in China dates from the end of the 5th century AD."

 While the exact circumstances surrounding sesame's arrival in China may be lost to history, there's no doubt that today it is a mainstay of Chinese cuisine. Toasted sesame seeds are sprinkled on salads, sesame paste is added to sauces, and delightfully aromatic sesame oil is used to flavor everything from dips to marinades.

 Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man dating back to as early as 1600 BC. They are highly valued for their oil which is exceptionally resistant to rancidity. "Open sesame," the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity. The scientific name for sesame seeds is Sesamum indicum.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum The sesame plant (Sesamum indicum) is a lovely annual shrub with white bell-shaped flowers tinged with a hint of blue, red or yellow. It is grown worldwide, particularly in India, China, South America and Africa. Its present popularity is nothing new, for it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years in Mesopotamia and was found in Tutankhamun?s tomb. The seeds were ground for flour and today they are still used to make tahini, a delicious paste that has a long reputation for increasing longevity. Apparently, the women of ancient Babylon would eat halva, a mixture of honey and sesame seeds, to prolong their youth and beauty, while Roman soldiers ate sesame seeds and honey to give them strength and energy.

 While sesame seeds have been grown in tropical regions throughout the world since prehistoric times, traditional myths hold that their origins go back even further. According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds.

 These seeds were thought to have first originated in India and were mentioned in early Hindu legends. In these legends, tales are told in which sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality. From India, sesame seeds were introduced throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

 Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil as well as one of the earliest condiments. The addition of sesame seeds to baked goods can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times from an ancient tomb painting that depicts a baker adding the seeds to bread dough.

 Sesame seeds were brought to the United States from Africa during the late 17th century. Currently, the largest commercial producers of sesame seeds include China, India and Mexico.

Etymology of Sesame.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum Sesame . . . that engaging, mellifluous word evolved from the Arabic simsim, the Coptic semsem, and the Egyptian semsent. A German Egyptologist, named Ebers, discovered a papyrus scroll 65 feet long that contained a listing of ancient herbs and spices, among them was semsent. Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, by Apicius, cookbook author of the Roman era, refers to semsent in his book. The Romans enjoyed ground sesame seeds that they mixed with cumin to make a tasty spread for their bread

 Benniseeds or benne seeds, as sesame seeds were called in the Bantu dialect, arrived in the United States with the West African slaves who brought only a few precious possessions with them. During the 17th and 18th centuries, slave traders were running slave ships to the Southern States and the Caribbean. In Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans, Louisiana, benniseed were considered good luck and incorporated into many dishes that are still used in Southern cooking.

 During the 1930s, the major vegetable oil used by Americans was sesame oil. At that time the United States was importing 58,000,000 pounds of sesame seeds a year mostly for producing oil. Two events combined to shift the importing of these huge quantities of sesame seeds to a diminished 12 million pounds by the early 1950s: World War II and the development of inexpensive soybean and cottonseed oils.

 A 1956 Pillsbury Bake-off contest winner changed the course of the downward spiraling sesame seed. The Washington, D.C. homemaker created an Open Sesame Pie and started a frenzy with commercial bakers sprinkling the tasty little seeds on all sorts of bread and crackers. It was the hamburger bun, however, that put sesame seeds back into the spotlight. Today, it's difficult to find hamburger buns without sesame seeds.

Traditional Uses of Sesame.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum "The butter of the Middle East," tahini, a smooth, creamy paste made of toasted, ground hulled sesame seeds, is a centuries-old traditional ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking. Hummos, a Middle Eastern appetizer that has become a universal favorite is made of ground chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and tahini. Baba ghanoush, another favorite appetizer known throughout the Middle East, has a base of roasted eggplant seasoned with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. These sesame-based dishes have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries.

 In the ancient Arab world, preparations for a caravan trip meant preparing provisions that would not only sustain them through the hot, dry desert but would offer nourishment that pleasured them as well. Open sesame! They began with a pound of dry breadcrumbs, kneaded them into three-quarters of a pound each of pitted dates, almonds, and pistachios, and added a few spoonsful of sesame oil to moisten the mixture. Then they formed the mixture into balls and rolled them in a coating of sesame seeds. This handy old recipe makes ideal present-day backpacking food as well.

 In addition to its popular use as oil for salads or cooking, sesame oil is used in producing margarine, soap making, pharmaceuticals, paints, and lubricants. In the cosmetic field, sesame oil is used as a base for developing perfumes.

 After the sesame oil is pressed out of the seed, the resulting residue is referred to as a seed cake that is very high in protein. A portion of this nutritious seed cake is used as animal feed, while the remainder is ground into sesame flour and added to health foods.

 Southern Indian cuisine depends on sesame oil for cooking, while in China it was the only cooking oil until quite recently. Today sesame oil is often combined with bland, less expensive oils.

 Used liberally in Chinese cooking, sesame oil is added to many dishes as a seasoning just before serving to benefit fully from its unique fragrance. Chinese confectioners have long favored the use of sesame seeds as a coating on their deep-fried sweets, still available in Oriental bakeries today. Korean cuisine combines sesame, garlic, and pimiento as a triad in many of their traditional dishes.

Mythology of Sesame.

 Black Sesame Seed  Sesamum Indicum According to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. In early Hindu legends, tales are told in which sesame seeds represent a symbol of immortality. "Open sesame," the famous phrase from the Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.

Sesame and Alibaba.

 According to stories of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves":

 "Ali baba was a woodcutter from a poor family. When he cut wood one day, he found the treasure nest of forty robbers, and eavesdropped on the secret language of the robbers. The secret code was similar to the secret code. Alibaba then brought home a lot of gold and silver and became rich. The incident was inadvertently discovered by the family. Although he married a rich girl and was rich, he was greedy. He went to the hidden treasure nest immediately to "kill". However, he was locked in the nest because he forgot the secret words.

 The robbers followed the trail to the home of Alibaba, and marked the door of Alibaba twice. Bandits twice fail. The robber, in great anger, pretended to be an oil dealer, put all the pieces into the oil urn, and stayed at Alibaba's house. Magina found that the urn was full of ambush, so she poured hot oil on the urn and burned all the ambush to death.

 The robber chieftain escaped, vowing revenge, changed his name to kalunji hayshan, pretended to be a businessman, and made love to qassim jr., in order to kill Alibaba during the dinner in kassim's house. However, during the banquet, she was recognized by magina, who pretended to perform for him, and in the graceful, graceful dance, she took the dagger to kill him.

 Marjina did so much good, and Alibaba gave her many gold COINS, which elevated her to freedom, and promised her to young kasim. Little Cassim and Alibaba lived happily ever after."


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