I was in Mexico recently and had the opportunity to tour a sesame seed farm. I never thought much about this little seed, except how many it must take to fill a 6 ounce bottle of oil. I was shocked to learn as much as I did about sesamum indicum, more commonly known as the sesame seed.

The plant grows well in tropical zones, including Africa, India and Southern Mexico. Worldwide the harvest is over 6.75 million tons of the seed with Tanzania, India and Sudan being the most prolific producers. Japan is the largest importer of the product, followed by China. The sesame seed is one of the oldest oilseed crops, having been domesticated over 3,000 years ago. The farmed plant originated in India and is now widely planted in many tropical locations. There are some wild versions originating in Africa, but the cultivated type is the most common.

Sesame is called a survivor crop due to its ability to withstand excessive heat, drought and the ability to retain water when it monsoons and requires little farming support. The plant is an annual plant, meaning it has to be planted every year. The seeds that grow in the pods are also called buns and look like okra. They come in a variety of colors, the most common being off-white than the black variety. They also come in tan, gold, brown, gray and buff (yellowish-gray). The color of the hull and seed are the same.

Sesame seeds are often overlooked for their health benefits, but they are numerous. They lower blood pressure, both systolic and metabolic; they also fight many types of cancer. Additionally they can help prevent diabetes, bone development, improve digestion, blood circulation, deal with stress and depression, reduce inflammation and help your teeth. To learn more about the health benefits watch this short YouTube video.