What the Heck Is a Sesame?

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This question, from part of a joke from late comedian Mitch Hedberg, got me really wondering. Where do sesame seeds come from, and what would they grow into if we ever gave them a chance? Turns out the mysterious ol' sesame is more than a street and not just a way to open things.

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Sesame fruit are triangular-shaped pods (not too dissimilar in form to okra) that contain the famous seeds the plant is cultivated for, with India being the largest exporter. The sesame plant they grow on is a drought-tolerant flowering plant that can grow to about 3.5 feet in height. 

"Open sesame." Sesame seeds are what you got.

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As you know, those nutty, oil-rich seeds are commonplace here in the States on baked goods such as hamburger buns, breads, and pastries. It's also a common spice used all over the world in unique ways, and with nearly 4 million tons of the seed exported each year, perhaps there is something magical about it.

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What's your favorite dish with sesame seed? 

(Images: 1. Flickr member Gudlyf licensed for use under Creative Commons; 2. Wikimedia commons; 3. Wikimedia commons; 4. Flicker member jeffreyw licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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