These flat, tiny seeds have a rich, nutty, sweet flavor. Sesame seeds come from a flowering plant of the same name. Typically, the Sesame Seed we use in the US is pale white in color, but can also be found black.
It is thought that sesame originated in sub-saharan Africa, but according to Assyrian legend, when the gods met to create the world, they drank wine made from sesame seeds. Sesame seeds figure prominently in Hindu legends and beliefs, where they are a symbol of immortality. "Open sesame", the phrase from Arabian Nights, reflects the distinguishing feature of the sesame seed pod, which bursts open when it reaches maturity.
White sesame seeds are more commonly used in the West and Middle East, while both the pale and black varieties are used in Asian cuisines. Sesame seeds often appear on breadsticks, crackers, bagels and hamburger buns. In Syria and Lebanon sesame seeds are part of the condiment zatar. Sesame is a key ingredient in halva, the Middle Eastern confection, and is ground into tahini, widely used throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean in such delicious spreads as hummus.
Black sesame appears frequently in Chinese, Japanese and Korean dishes where meat or fish is rolled in the seeds before cooking for a crunchy coating. Black sesame is an ingredient of gomassio, the Japanese tabletop condiment, and other colourful rice and noodle dishes. Our black sesame seed is less common and has a more concentrated flavor than the white.