sesame

sesame (sĕsˈəmē) [key], herb ( Sesamum indicum or orientale ) cultivated for its seeds since ancient times, found chiefly in the tropics of Africa and Asia. Sesame seeds, also called bennes or gingellies, are black or white and yield an oil that resists turning rancid. The oil (known also as teel oil) is used extensively in India for cooking, soap manufacture, food, and medicine and as an adulterant for olive oil. The seeds are also popularly added to cookies and other baked goods and are made into candy (e.g., benne cakes). Sesame was introduced by African slaves to the U.S. South, where it sometimes becomes a weed. The sesame was once credited with mystic powers. Sesame is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Serophulariales, family Pedaliaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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