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Sesame Seed in Africa

Sesame seeds have been prized for their high oil content and their distinctive nutty flavor since ancient times. Sesame seeds origins are African.

Sesame seeds are among the many plants that have their origins in Africa and were introduced to the United States during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This was a period of intense and brutal slave trade when millions of Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic Ocean to work on plantations in the Americas. Sesame seeds were valued for their oil content and their nutty flavor, and they became a staple ingredient in many cuisines and cultures.

Sesame seeds have been prized for their high oil content and their distinctive nutty flavor since ancient times. They have been widely used in various cuisines and cultures, from Asia to Africa to the Middle East, as a seasoning, a garnish, a paste, or a main ingredient. Sesame seeds are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and they have many health benefits and culinary applications.

Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil.
Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil. 

Sesame seeds were one of the first crops processed for oil. Adding sesame seeds to baked goods can be traced back to ancient Egyptian times from an ancient tomb painting that depicts a baker adding the seeds to bread dough. The use of sesame seeds in baked goods has a long and rich history that spans different cultures and regions. 

According to some sources, sesame seeds are one of the oldest oilseed crops known to humanity and have been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Sesame seeds originated in the Sunda Islands in Indonesia and then spread to China, Egypt, India, and Japan. In ancient Egypt, sesame seeds were ground into flour and used to make bread. In China, sesame seeds were used to make ink blocks. In Hindu mythology, sesame seeds were associated with immortality. 

Sesame seeds have a mild, nutty flavor and a crunchy texture that enhance the taste and appearance of various baked goods, such as loaves of bread, cookies, cakes, and pastries. Sesame seeds are also rich in oil, protein, calcium, iron, and antioxidants, making them a nutritious and versatile ingredient.


Types of Sesame Seeds

Baking and cooking with black, brown, and white sesame seeds in Africa.

The darker the sesame seed the stronger the flavor.

Black sesame seeds.

Black sesame seeds are a popular ingredient in many cuisines, especially in Africa, where they are valued for their health benefits and distinctive taste. Black sesame seeds have a nutty and slightly bitter flavor that enhances the flavor of various dishes, from soups and salads to desserts and breads. Black sesame seeds are also rich in antioxidants, minerals, and fiber, which may help lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes, and improve digestion. 

One of the most common ways to use black sesame seeds is to toast them lightly and sprinkle them over rice, noodles, or vegetables. They can also be ground into a paste and used as a filling for pastries, such as mochi or sesame balls. Another way to enjoy black sesame seeds is to add them to sauces and marinades, where they can add depth and complexity to the dish. 

For example, black sesame seeds can be mixed with soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ginger to make a dressing for salads or noodles. Black sesame seeds can also be used to make sweets, such as black sesame ice cream, pudding, or cake. These desserts have a rich and creamy texture and a unique flavor that is both sweet and savory. 

The black sesame plant is an important plant in Sierra Leone, the seeds are often used to facilitate childbirth, heal sprains and make, an excellent seasoning called ogiri. The leaves of the sesame plant are also used as laxatives and as a topical remedy to heal stings of scorpions.

Brown sesame seeds.

Brown sesame seeds are popularly used for oil extraction purposes. These are non-hulled seeds and are widely used in cereals, candies, granola, and bakery items. One of the most common applications of brown sesame seeds is oil extraction. These seeds have a high oil content and a nutty flavor, and they do not need to be hulled before processing. 

Brown sesame oil is widely used in cooking, cosmetics, and traditional medicine. Besides oil extraction, brown sesame seeds are also used as an ingredient or a topping in various food products, such as cereals, candies, granola bars, and baked goods. They add a crunchy texture and a rich taste to these foods, as well as providing health benefits such as antioxidants, minerals, and fiber.

White sesame seeds. 

White sesame seeds are used in making bakery products and are the most widely used seeds in the market. White sesame seeds are one of the most popular and versatile ingredients in the baking industry. They have a nutty flavor and a crunchy texture that enhance the taste and appearance of various bakery products, such as bread, bagels, muffins, cookies, and cakes. 

White sesame seeds are also rich in nutrients, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, that benefit the health of consumers. Moreover, white sesame seeds have a long shelf life and can be stored for up to two years without losing their quality. Due to these reasons, white sesame seeds are widely used and preferred by bakers and customers alike.

Mixed sesame seeds.

These are a combination of different types of sesame seeds that are not sorted by color or size. They are usually cheaper than pure types and have a lower quality. They are used for animal feed or low-grade oil production.

Brown sesame seeds from Sierra Leone

Benni mix and ogiri are two traditional sesame seed recipes in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, sesame seeds are traditionally prepared in two ways:

Benni mix.

Toasted and ground into a powder, which is mixed with rice flour and water to obtain benni mix, a nutritious children’s food. Bennimix is a natural and nutritious baby food that is made in Sierra Leone. It contains four ingredients: sesame seeds, pigeon peas, rice, and a small amount of sugar. These ingredients are locally grown and provide a balanced diet for infants and young children. Bennimix has been helping families with infant nutrition for over 30 years. 

Ogiri is a fermented paste.

Boiled for a long time and left to ferment in closed jute sacks to obtain a powder, which is wrapped in banana leaves and smoked. The resulting product, ogiri, is one of the most common seasonings in Sierra Leone, used to flavor soups and other dishes. It must be used with caution, as the pungent smell can become offensive if used in large quantities. It should also be cooked for at least 10-15 minutes to minimize its strong odor. 

Ogiri is a fermented paste made from sesame seeds or melon seeds that is widely used as a flavor enhancer in Sierra Leonean cuisine. It has a strong, pungent smell and a salty, umami taste that adds depth and complexity to soups, stews, sauces, and rice dishes. Ogiri is one of the most common seasonings in Sierra Leone, along with Maggi cubes, salt, and pepper.

Sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any seed.

Tanzania in East Africa is the world’s largest producer of sesame seeds.

Tanzania is one of the largest producers and exporters of sesame seeds in Africa and the world. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Tanzania produced 680,000 metric tons of sesame seeds in 2019, ranking third after India and Nigeria. 

Sesame seeds are mainly grown in the coastal regions of Lindi and Mtwara, where they are an important source of income for many smallholder farmers. Sesame seeds are used for various purposes, such as oil extraction, food preparation, pharmaceutical applications, and animal feed.

There are different types of sesame seeds that Tanzania produces, depending on the variety, color, size, and quality. Some of the common types are black, brown, white, and mixed.

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