One of the oldest seed spices known to man, Sesame seeds are thought to have originated in India or Africa. The first written record of sesame dates back to 3,000 BC. There are three varieties of sesame seed – white is the most common, pale which is also called golden, brown or pale gold, and black. The three seed varieties are all very similar but there are some subtle differences – Black Sesame Seeds and Golden Sesame Seeds are not hulled, while White Sesame Seeds are hulled which shows the seed’s true color.
The lighter color seeds are more frequently found in Middle Eastern and Western cuisines, while the black seeds are more popular in Far Eastern cuisine. Sesame seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals and black sesame seeds contain roughly 60% more calcium than their hulled cousins.
Toasting black sesame seeds releases beneficial chemicals as well as enhancing the flavor. There is some controversy on the benefits of toasting these seeds, as some cooks believe that black sesame is bitter when dry-roasted. Japanese chefs believe the secret is in lightly roasting them. To toast black sesame seeds, place them on a cookie sheet and roast in a pre-heated oven at 325° for 5-7 minutes. We like to stir these once at the half way point and we are sure not to overcook (this causes the bitterness).