Sesame seed

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Infobox on Sesame seed
Example of Sesame seed
Sesame seed.jpg
Facts
Origin See text
Stowage factor (in m3/t) -
Humidity / moisture -
Ventilation -
Risk factors See text

Description / Application

Sesame is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. 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.

Sesame seed is considered to be the oldest oilseed crop known, domesticated well over 3000 years ago. Sesame is very drought-tolerant. It has been called a survivor crop, with an ability to grow where most crops fail.

Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. With a rich nutty flavour, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world.

Sesame, like other nuts and foods, can trigger allergic reactions in some people.

The world harvested about 3.84 million metric tonnes of sesame seeds in 2010. The largest producer of sesame seeds in 2010 was Burma. The world's largest exporter of sesame seeds was India, and Japan the largest importer.

It is an annual plant growing 50 to 100 cm tall, with opposite leaves 4 to 14 cm long with an entire margin; they are broad lanceolate, to 5 cm broad, at the base of the plant, narrowing to just 1 cm broad on the flowering stem.

The flowers are yellow, tubular, 3 to 5 cm long, with a four-lobed mouth. The flowers may vary in colour with some being white, blue or purple.

Sesame fruit is a capsule, normally pubescent, rectangular in section and typically grooved with a short triangular beak. The length of the fruit capsule varies from 2 to 8 cm, its width varies between 0.5 to 2 cm, and the number of loculi from 4 to 12. The fruit naturally splits opens (dehisces) to release the seeds by splitting along the septa from top to bottom or by means of two apical pores, depending on the varietal cultivar. The degree of dehiscence is of importance in breeding for mechanised harvesting as is the insertion height of the first capsule.

Sesame seeds are small. The size, form and colours vary with the thousands of varieties now known. Typically, the seeds are about 3 to 4 millimeters long by 2 millimeters wide and 1 millimeter thick. The seeds are ovate, slightly flattened and somewhat thinner at the eye of the seed (hilum) than at the opposite end. The weight of the seeds are between 20 and 40 milligrams. The seed coat (testa) may be smooth or ribbed.

Sesame seeds come in many colours depending on the cultivar harvested. The most traded variety of sesame is off-white coloured. Other common colours are buff, tan, gold, brown, reddish, gray and black.

Sesame seed is sometimes sold with its seed coat removed (decorticated). This is the variety often present on top of buns in developed economies.

For thousands of years, sesame seeds have been a source of food and oil. Sesame has one of the highest oil content of any seed, some varietals exceeding 50% oil content compared to soybean's 20 % Sesame oil is one of the most stable vegetable oils, with long shelf life, because of the high level of natural antioxidants (sesamin, sesamolin, and sesamol). Oil from the seed is used in cooking, as salad oils and margarine, and contains about 47% oleic and 39% linoleic acid. Sesame seed oil, like sunflower seed oil, is rich in Omega 6 fatty acids, but lacks Omega 3 fatty acids. Sesame seed is also rich in protein, at 25% by weight. The flour that remains after oil extraction is between 35 to 50% protein, has good effective carbohydrates, and contains water-soluble antioxidants (sesaminol glucosides) that provide added shelf-life to many products. This flour, also called sesame meal, is an excellent high-protein feed for poultry and livestock. The addition of sesame to high lysine meal of soybean produces a well balanced animal feed.

Shipment / Storage / Risk factors

Seeds from sesame plant. Shipped in bags, the kernels are small therefore any tears in the bags make a large spillage. Leaking bags must be sewn and careful handling is required. Do not stow into the same container with coffee etc, because the seeds emit a sharp smell.

See also Seeds