About Sesame Seeds
This annual herb can grow as high as seven feet tall, though most plants range two to four feet. The white to lavender-pink flowers, similar in appearance to foxglove, mature into pods containing the edible sesame seeds which burst with a pop when the small seeds are mature. Since this process scatters the seeds, the pods are often harvested by hand before they are fully ripe.
Sesame seed hulls are often removed since they contain 2 to 3 percent oxalic acid, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium and give a bitter flavor.
Prime season for sesame seeds is between September and April when the new crops are harvested. A cologne is made from sesame flowers. The oilcakes left after pressing sesame oil are rich in protein and are used as cattle feed and as a subsistence food.
Sesame Seed Varieties
The seeds come in a variety of colors depending on the plant variety, including shades of brown, red, black, yellow, and most commonly, a pale grayish ivory. The darker seeds are said to be more flavorful but beware of seeds that have been dyed.
Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds which are used in many Near and Far East recipes. You can purchase it prepared in most markets, but it's easy enough to make your own. Just try this homemade tahini recipe.