#BlackHistoryEats / Day 07 / Sesame

Source: Paul Poplis (Getty Images)

Source: Paul Poplis (Getty Images)


  • Sesame seed (Sesamum indicum) is one of the oldest oilseed crops (domesticated over 3000 years ago) and is a very resilient crop; it is drought resistant and thrives turbulent environmental conditions that other crops do not (for this reason it is also called a 'survivor crop)
  • In South Carolina it is called "benne seed"
  • Ebers Papyrus includes sesame (also known at 'sesemt') in the list of medicinal drugs
  • The popular phrase "open sesame" is literal! The sesame seed pod burst open when it reaches maturity (this is also a really fascinating way that is flings its seeds several feet)
  • Most are familiar with the white or beige variety but the seeds come in a variety of colors including black, red, and violet
  • Today, sesame seed is also heavily cultivated in India 


  • This resilient crop is a very significant source of essential minerals like copper (needed for proper cell growth), magnesium (supports vascular and respiratory health; also important for women's reproductive health), iron (energy and blood health), and zinc (bone health and produces collagen which promotes healthy skin).
  • Some studies suggest that the plant secondary compound 'sesamol' (which is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant) helps promote heart health and can assist in reducing high blood pressure
  • Like all plant-based foods, sesame seeds are rich in fiber which is important for digestive and colon health


  • Enslaved Africans grew large crops of sesame seed and used it to make soups and puddings. They also ate it raw, added it to salads boiled greens and cooked it as a broth. Their use of sesame seed forever changed and impacted the way that the world uses it today.
  • Sesame oil (which again was introduced to the US by enslaved Africans) is popularly used in many Asian diasporic cuisines as it provides a deep, nutty flavor
  • Ground sesame seed paste (i.e. tahini) is the key ingredient to traditional Middle Eastern Hummus (Note: Not DAIRY, it is so absurd to me how many restaurants in the US put dairy in their hummus)
  • Sesame oil was historically used in oil pulling (and Ayurvedic medicinal practice of using oil to orally remove toxins from the blood). This technique has resurfaced and gained more popularity in Western culture, however, many individuals also use coconut oil because of the more palatable taste and vitamin E content.