goma2During my summer break, I went to Sagami River with my family. On the banks of the river, a farm was growing these sesame plants among other vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants and sweet potatoes. We thought the flowers were very beautiful, a lot like the physostegia which we have growing and blooming in our garden right now, except that the leaves are not serrated.

goma1

Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. Many wild species of umerous wild relatives occur in sub-saharan Africa, Zohary and Hopf, but it is thought that the sesame plant was first domesticated in India. It is widely naturalised in tropical regions around the world and in Japan and is cultivated for its edible seeds.

In the East Asia, Middle East and India mixed with honey or syrup and roasted (called pasteli in Greece).

Sesame (known as goma in Japan) has been used since prehistoric times in Japan, they were sprinkled on special biscuits, breadlike foods since early Jomon times. Today, sesame seeds are sprinkled onto some sushi style foods. Ground and processed, the seeds can also be used in sweet confections. Black sesame is more valued in the Far East than white sesame which is more commonly used in cooking. Japanese use sesame seeds in many ways. One is to make goma-dofu (胡麻豆腐) which is made from sesame paste and starch. Whole seeds are found in many salad dressings and baked snacks such as senbei (rice-crackers) as well. Tempura dishes are made by blending sesame and cottonseed oil for deep-frying. Tan and black sesame seed varieties are roasted and used for making the flavoring gomashio.

Goma / sesame for health.

The above benefits of sesame seem to have been known from Historical times. Apparently the women of ancient Babylon would eat halva, a mixture of honey and sesame seeds, to prolong their youth and beauty, while Roman soldiers ate sesame seeds and honey to give them strength and energy. Sesame oil is used for massage and health treatments of the body in the ancient Indian ayurvedic system. The seeds are rich in manganese, copper, and calcium, and contain Vitamins B1 and E, and powerful antioxidants called lignans, which are also anti-carcinogenic. They also contain phytosterols, which block cholesterol production. The nutrients of sesame seeds are better absorbed if they are ground or pulverised before consumption.

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