Baladi Sesame

Ark of taste
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السمسم البلدي

The area of sesame is decreasing year after year due to competition of imported sesame. In 2010 sesame was grown in 637 farms with a total area of ins 4,643 dunums. This area dropped to 3,000 dunums in 2019. The widest area (75%) is grown in in Qabatia, while remaining is grown in, Maythalon and Sanoor. Other areas like Nablus, Hebron and Gaza.
Farmers in Palestine grow one variety of sesame called “Baladi Sesame”. However, the market depends mainly on imported sesame.

Sesame, (Sesamum indicum), erect annual plant grown since antiquity for its seeds, which are used as food, from which a prized oil is extracted.
The hulled seeds are creamy or pearly white and about 3 mm long and have a flattened pear shape. The seed capsules open when dry, allowing the seed to scatter. Considerable hand labour is needed in harvesting to prevent loss of the seeds.
The crop is mainly grown early spring. It takes 120 days to mature. Harvesting is manual. Farmers pick mature plants early morning so kernels will not split. The picking season is July – August and could even go to September, according to geographical area. Mid day when the sun is hot and no dew moisture is existing in sesame kernels farmers hit dried crop with sticks and later sieve it manually or use light wind to separate seeds from contaminents.

Sesame seeds, rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, are commonly added to certain foods to provide a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Sesame seeds are also used as an ingredient in soap, cosmetics, lubricants, and medicines. It is rich with folic acid, essential minerals particularly calcium, magnesium and Iron. It has high content of fibers, no cholesterol, and has more of saturated than unsaturated fatty acidsز
Sesame oil called Seirej in Arabic, it has medicinal values as well, it lowers blood pressure and blood sugar, it improves metabolism and many other medicinal benefits.

The area grown to sesame is decreasing year after year due to the lower prices of imported sesame. Subsistence farmers grow sesame in different places but at very small scale.

Most of the consumption of local sesame is for Zaater mix and pastries. While for processing of Halva and Taheena factories depend totally on imported Sesame. Seeds and products of sesame can be found in most groceries, but more in spices shops and grain dealers. Local people prefer local varieties, but as it is more expensive.

The whole seed is used extensively in the cuisines of the Middle East and Asia. Halvah is a confection made of crushed and sweetened sesame seeds. It is more used as processed products: oil, Halva, and Taheena. local factories mainly in Jerusalem, Nablus and Hebron are still processing sesame following traditional methods and simple presses.

The local sesame is mainly used in “Zaatar” (Origano mix) which is found in every Palestinian house. Sesame seeds are lightly roasted and added to the mix to give nutty taste.
A wide range of sweets, pastries and bread use sesame, especially Jerusalem bread (Kaa’ek). A special sweet is given the name of sesame “Simsemeya”, most famous in Jerusalem and known in other areas as well.

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