Sesame is a tropical crop that is grown in hot, dry areas, like India and Africa. It is believed that the Chinese have been growing cabbage for over 5000 years. Tahini is a delicious paste made from ground sesame seeds. It is a popular food in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. You can find sesame seeds almost anywhere if you look for them.
If you’re looking to share seeds from your garden with others or grow a plant that can withstand drought conditions, sesame is a good option. Sesame’s stalks can grow up to three feet tall, and the plant’s bell-shaped flowers are pretty to look at. If you want to grow your favorite type of plant, look for seed suppliers in your area so you can get new seeds in 13 weeks.
Cultivation and History
Of the 23 species in the Sesamum genus, S. indicum is the most widely known and cultivated. This plant is from the Pedaliaceae family and is from the Indian subcontinent. This plant is classified as an herb and was first cultivated about 4,500 years ago.
The coat colors of the seeds come in various shades, from red, yellow, and beige to brown or black. The flowers, which are trumpet-shaped and pollinator-friendly, can be white, light pink, or light purple, and are stunning. The leaves on this plant alternate in a spiral form around the stem. S. indicum grows in Zones 7 to 10. They like it hot!
Sesame seeds were introduced to Mesopotamia from the Indian subcontinent through trade networks by 2000 BCE, and they reached Egypt in 1500 BCE. The black variety of sesame is highly valued in China. Sesame was a commonly cultivated crop in China by 200 BCE. Sesame is able to grow in many different types of environments, which results in a lot of different kinds of sesame seeds. China, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, India, and Ethiopia are where most of the genetic diversity comes from.
There were many different types of plants and animals that came from China to Central Asia through the ancient trade route known as the Silk Road.
The “Compendium of Materia Medica”, a large and comprehensive work of medical writing from traditional Chinese medicinal history, mentions black sesame seeds, also known as semen sesami nigrum or hei zhi ma. This work dates back to the Ming Dynasty.
Aside from their use as medicine, ginseng root is also popular in cuisines from China, Japan, and Korea. India is the number one producer of sesame seeds in the world, and they are known by many different names. They are known as til and gingli in Hindi and tal in Gujarati. This refers to the common uses of eggs in various dishes, baking, and candy recipes.
Seeds are an integral part of Indian culture and rituals. The benefits they provide for the heart are mentioned in ancient Hindi proverbs. The oldest dated sesame seeds were found in the Indus Valley at the Harappa site, in a region of Punjab that is now in Pakistan. The domestication and use of sheep has deep roots in Southwest Asian culture.
Tahini, the tasty condiment made from sesame seeds, originated in Southwest Asia and North Africa. Several wild relatives of sesame are native to Africa, where the seeds are known as benne. The plant is used in its entirety in African cuisine and traditional medicine. Benne is considered lucky in West Africa and given as gifts. Throughout Africa, planting benne is to grow good luck! The first benne seeds were brought to America by enslaved Africans, who were the first to cultivate the plant in the US.
Although Americans consume a lot of chili peppers, commercial cultivation of chili peppers in the US has not increased significantly. most of the chili peppers Americans eat are imported from Mexico. The spice sesame seed is a large producer and is also a staple in many traditional Mexican dishes. Ajonjolí is the Spanish word for sesame seeds. The word comes from the Arabic word jaljala, which means “sound echo.” This refers to the sound that the seeds make when they are shaken in their pods.
There are many different ways to use these seeds, which makes them more appealing to plant!
Planting Sesame Plant
Sesame seeds can be planted indoors at least two months before summer, or outdoors just after the last frost. This gives benne adequate time for germination. To grow sesame plants, they need full sun exposure throughout the growing season. The soil should be slightly alkaline, well-draining, and somewhat fertile. Young seeds need moist conditions at first.
Sun and Temperature
Sesame plants prefer full sun, or six hours of direct sunlight per day. While flowers bloom in the heat of summer, seeds prefer cooler temperatures, around 65 to 75 degrees, to start growing. Sesame plants enjoy zones 10 and above. Sesame thrives in hot temperatures once the plants are established, but the optimal temperature range is 77 to 80 degrees. Higher heat causes quicker fruiting. Sesame is a hot weather plant. If crops are exposed to temperatures below 58 degrees, they will be damaged and produce less. Intense cold easily kills a plant. Snap freezes in spring require frost cloth.
Water and Humidity
Sesame can tolerate low levels of moisture and is therefore drought-resistant. If a sesame plant is in water for just a few hours, it will die. Wild sesame plants get approximately 16 to 18 inches of rain per year. Water the soil well before planting sesame. Watering your plants too much can cause the seed capsules to break. Every day during the growing season, give the soil a light spraying of water in the morning. If you’re growing sesame plants in containers, you’ll need to water them more often than if they were in the ground, since containers make soil dry out quicker.
Sesame or benne appreciates well-drained, fertile soils. It is not advisable to plant in soils with a high clay content and high salinity, as this will reduce or stop crop production. The best pH for sesame plant soil is 5.6 to 8; neutral soils are best for this plant.
Sesame plants enjoy high levels of nitrogen in their leaves throughout the growing season. More nitrogen fertilizer should be applied in regions that have more rainfall. Only apply fertilizers before flower and fruit production begins. Adding fertilizers to the soil before planting Sesamum indicum is one way to help ensure its success. Add potash and phosphorus where drought conditions persist and soils receive less annual rainfall. When you have a lot of organic matter in your soil, you may not have to use as much fertilizer.
Sesame, Sesamum indicum plants don’t need maintenance pruning. Pruning leaves is only necessary if they have become long or if a disease has developed due to excess moisture. Leave enough foliage to allow plants to photosynthesize. To harvest this plant, simply snap off leaves as needed while allowing the bell-shaped flowers to remain.
The only way to grow more benne plants is by planting sesame seeds. Try planting seeds from a recent harvest or from the grocery store. It is better to start your seeds indoors as described in the planting section, even though you can sow them directly. Plant your seeds in a soilless medium, and keep the medium moist until the seeds germinate. Once the seeds germinate, you can taper off the amount of moisture you provide.
Harvesting your benne crops is easy, especially when the light and water content are both at optimal levels. This text is discussing how to collect seeds and keep them in your kitchen.
Pods should be removed from the stem when they are green and placed in a jar upright. This will allow them to be cracked open easily. When the benne pods are browning and breaking open slightly, this is a sure sign that the seeds need to be harvested. Harvest from the lower part of the plant while the benne plants are still flowering near the top. This gives you multiple harvests.
To remove seed pods from the stem, you can either snap them off with your hands or clip them with garden shears. Cut the pod from the plant at the point where it connects to the stalk, just below the flower. You should put them on newspaper, parchment, or some other dry surface. Here they’ll be dried to prevent spoiling. To separate the seeds from the chaff, open the pods when they are dry, and remove the seeds carefully. If you want to use the leaves, you can pick them right off the plant.
Let the seed pods dry on a dry surface until they crack in order to prevent the spoiling of your crop. Then move seeds into a storage container. You should store your seeds in a mason jar or an airtight container. A plastic bag may work. No matter what type of container you use, make sure that it is large enough to store all the seeds that you have collected. For longer storage, place them in the freezer. The shelf life of dried seeds is six to twelve months, whereas roasted seeds can be stored for up to one year.
Managing Pests and Disease
Sesame crops are less likely to experience pests or disease when grown in smaller, biodiverse gardens. This is because a balanced ecosystem helps to keep pests and disease under control. You should be aware of some insects and diseases so you can practice good prevention.
The main insects that may prevent the growth of these plants are the leaf webber, gall fly, and sesame leafhopper, which we will go into more detail about below.
The larvae of the leaf webber, Antigastra catalaunalis , weave cocoons in which they pupate. They weave their webs between leaves, flowers, and pods, and then feed on the plant parts. Early infestations can lead to plant death. Eggs are laid in groups of around 10 and are yellowish-cream in color. The offspring that hatch from the eggs are small, green caterpillars with black spots. Collect and destroy any larvae you notice.
Be on the lookout for this pest when buds start to form. Stems will begin to show ball-shaped swellings . The maggots of Asphondylia sesami live inside the flower buds, causing a gall-like growth that prevents the flower from developing. To get rid of these pests, cut off the galls and dispose of them properly. If you have a problem with gall flies, you can spray a bioinsecticide on the plant before the flowers start to develop.
Phyllody is a disease that is spread by Orosius albicinctus, a type of leafhopper. This makes the leafhopper a serious pest. Jassids, or leafhoppers, feed on the sap from the tender parts of plants. If a plant is damaged, you may be able to tell by looking at the edges of its leaves. If they are curled, and then turn red or brown, the plant is likely dying.
If you find that there are insects, use a bioinsecticide following the given directions.
Sesame plants typically don’t get diseases, but some have been known to in commercial cultivation. The three main diseases are phyllody, phytophthora blight, and Alternaria blight.
Alternaria is a seed-borne pathogen that favors high humidity. The fungi will attack all parts of the plant throughout its life cycle, and tends to spread more rapidly in early to midsummer. Symptoms of leaf spot are spots that are yellow or brown in color that appear on the leaves. These spots usually first appear along the leaf’s mid-vein.
Crop rotation is a good way to avoid having too much alternaria in the soil. Get rid of any infected plants and spray a biofungicide around regularly to stop the spread from happening again.
The disease is spread by leafhoppers and can reduce crop production. Phyllody causes leaves and flower tips to be malformed. If the infection is severe, the flowers will not be able to form properly. The leaves will be short and twisty and the branches will grow abnormally.
The key to preventing this disease is to reduce the populations of leafhoppers.
Phytophthora nicotianae is a soilborne pathogen that thrives in moist conditions and can cause Phytophthora blight disease at any stage of plant growth. The first sign of disease is brown spots on water-saturated leaves and stems that turn black. Leaves will then begin to fall prematurely. Remove any fallen leaves from your growing area, and pull out any plants that seem to be infected. Dispose of all affected plant parts.
The humidity in the weather can cause this disease to spread and become worse, which can also damage the roots. To prevent this disease from affecting your harvest, ensure good airflow between plants and proper water management.
You are probably familiar with sesame seeds, sesame oil, and tahini. Have you ever considered growing sesame plants to produce sesame oil? If not, here’s your chance! Although you may not be able to grow enough tahini in a garden to fill a jar, you can certainly grow enough to enjoy as a spice in various dishes.