Sesame the Survival Plant (Adapted Excerpt from Grow Your Own Spices)

The following is an adapted excerpt from Grow Your Own Spices: Harvest homegrown ginger, turmeric, saffron, wasabi, vanilla, cardamom, and other incredible spices — no matter where you live! 

Sesame is often called a survival plant. It tolerates extreme heat, crowding, and poor soil. There are landraces adapted to monsoon conditions and yet other varieties adapted to drought conditions. Also, its fat and protein content plus utility as an oil, paste, and flour meal have also helped subsistence farmers since antiquity survive in harsh climates.

The natural dehiscence, or shattering of the seed pods, also helps ensure this plant’s self-propagation. As a result, wild and naturalized sesame can be found in many warm regions of the world.

Additionally, sesame plants also benefit the soil. They reduce harmful nematodes and fungal pathogens. Its pervasive root structure breaks up soil compaction. Sesame is also beautiful in pollinator and bird gardens. It grows 2-6 feet tall, with bell-shaped flowers that open for weeks.

Dried sesame seeds lack the aromatic, volatile oils associated with spices. That’s because an antioxidant called sesamol prevents its oils from volatizing. Sesame oil is even used to make margarine and ghee shelf stable. Yet, once the seeds are roasted or toasted, all that oil volatility activates revealing sesames’ spicy nature.

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