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The history of sesame - from oil to snack
Sesame has gone down in history as one of first oil plants known to humankind, grown for at least 3,000 years. In the past, it was used mainly for oil production, but over the centuries it has gained new culinary uses.
Nowadays, it serves not only as an addition to meals and bakery products, but it is also considered valuable on its own, as an necessary supplement to daily diet, which contains fibre, protein, unsaturated fatty acids, zinc, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, B group vitamins, and antioxidants. It can be eaten on its own or as a convenient snack. How did sesame end up on our shelves in the form of sesame snaps or halva, and why do we need these barely visible, tiny seeds so much?
How did sesame appear in Poland?
Does sesame (saasim or simsim in Arabian) come from India? Not completely… It is assumed that naturally it originates from Africa, especially its northern part. One of the best crops of this plant are located there till now, for example in Nigeria. Sesame took a significant place in the culture of ancient Egypt many thousand years ago. At that time, it was most likely transported also to Asia, where it was accepted well, both in the context of crops and Indian culture and cuisine. It can be presumed that sesame is called Indian thanks to this travel around the world. However, it should be stressed that seeds cultivated in Africa are sweeter than their counterpart known e.g. in India and often are characterised by much higher quality. This is not necessarily related to cultivated plant variety, but rather with climatic conditions for growth.
Sesame was mainly cultivated for oil although it also fulfilled other roles. Various sources inform us that, for example, Chinese used soot acquired from roasting sesame to make ink. Sesame in its pure form was also used in ancient Greek armies as a valuable and energetic field ration for soldiers while in Rome seeds constituted as a base for preparing a hummus-like spread with cumin. Moreover, early Assyrians believed that gods drank wine with sesame just before they created the world.
What is the history of sesame in Poland? It has appeared in our country in Sarmatic times many years before chocolate so loved today. Reportedly it travelled for thousands of kilometres and reach Polish tables thanks to contacts between Sarmatians and Turkish Empire.
How does sesame grow?
How do we use sesame nowadays?
Advantages of sesame – why is it worth to eat it?
Sesame is not uniform and we differentiate several varieties of it, but most often we consume its white, shelled version. However, regardless of species and type, sesame is very healthy and rich in ingredients beneficial for body function. It is a good source of fibre and is gluten-free. Sesame is 50% fats and moreover, majority of those fats are unsaturated fatty acids, mainly Omega-6 acid. Fibre contained in seeds also reduced the level of bad cholesterol in blood. For that reason, only it is worth to eat one handful of sesame daily!
The seeds themselves possess many nutritional values. They are a valuable source of protein – even 18 g per 100 g of sesame, which is comparable to or even more than chicken eggs. It is also a good source of calcium as the same number of seeds contains around 130 mg of calcium, which is slightly more than 100 ml of milk has!
Sesame also contains plenty of other microelements and nutritional values necessary for proper body function, such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, or selenium. Thanks to lecithin, sesame improves memory and concentration while antioxidants – sesamol and sesaminol – prevent cancer and delay the aging process. The same ingredients make these inconspicuous seeds a great solution to infections as they improve body’s immunity. There is a reason why this plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine as remedy for cold, as well as persistent cough thanks to its expectorant properties. In addition, it regulates blood pressure, prevents creation of clots, and has diuretic properties. It also helps with constipation and haemorrhoids and strengthens bones, teeth, hair, and nails. Sesame seeds also have valuable vitamins, i.e. A, E, and B group vitamins. They also contain ingredients such as e.g. tryptophan, which is a compound necessary to synthesis serotonin and melatonin. A handful of sesame daily should help solve problems with falling asleep.
fatty acids content
Contains minerals: magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and zinc
Sesame seeds under tight control
It is worth to pay particular attention to selection of crops, on which this valuable plant grows. The Unitop Company among others selects African seeds to produce sesame snaps and additionally roasts it before producing the snack – this has a positive influence on its rich taste while the process itself is not a principle among producers. The raw resource must be characterised by purity greater than standard one – one pebble in a several tonnes of seed is all that it takes to reject a delivery. The size of seeds to produce sesame snaps is also significant. Therefore, the Unitop Company chooses only the bigger, fuller seeds to produce its healthier snacks and this makes the sesame snaps exceptionally crunchy gives them a unique taste.