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About Tahini

Sesame seeds - tahini's single ingredient - are one of the oldest crops known to humanity; initially, they were mainly used as a source of oil. The oldest mention of sesame is in a cuneiform document written 4,000 years ago that describes the custom of serving the god sesame wine. Processing sesame seeds into a paste is more complicated than making sesame oil, which is extracted from the seeds. No wonder Tahini initially identified with those who had money and could afford to indulge. 

The first mention of sesame seeds in paste (tahini) is in a recipe transcribed in an anonymous 13th-century Arabic cookbook, which appears as an ingredient of hummus Kasa. Mysteriously, some hundreds of years later, tahini made its way to the Western mainstream just like that - as an ingredient in hummus. In Middle Eastern cuisines, however, this bittersweet-flavored paste is considered one of the most versatile pantry staples and is used in endless sweet and savory dishes.

The word tahini is derived from the Arabic word Tahina, which means "to grind."  Processing tahini required multiple stages of work (let alone the labor-intensive harvesting of the sesame seeds, which is entirely manual to this day). The sesame seeds are soaked in water to remove the kernels, then toasted and pressed between millstones to produce an oily paste.

​In modern cuisines, tahini is also praised for its beneficial, wholesome ingredient and is considered a healthy addition to everyone's diet. Packed with vitamins and minerals, it's a good source of B vitamins (B1 and B6 that participate in the energy creation process) and important minerals such as magnesium, copper, phosphorus, manganese, iron, and zinc. Up to 20% of the sesame seed is a complete protein, making it a higher protein source than most nuts and seeds.

Sesame seeds are one of the top sources of calcium, an essential mineral for nerve and muscle function and bone health. They contain almost triple the amount of calcium in milk per gram, making them a great addition to a vegan diet and for those sensitive to dairy.

About 50% of the fat in raw tahini comes from monounsaturated fatty acids. This healthy plant-based fat helps lower harmful cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Two tablespoons of tahini contain 2.6 mg of iron, 14% of the recommended daily intake, placing tahini on the list of the top iron-rich foods.

Raw tahini contains antioxidants called lignans. Research has shown that this quality antioxidant helps prevent the damage caused by free radicals in our body, may reduce the risk of cancer, and protect the liver from damage caused by these free radicals.

In some southern Asia and Middle Eastern countries, tahini or sesame oil is used as a home remedy to treat burns, dryness, and other skin problems, thanks to its natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Sesame seeds' high zinc and copper content support collagen production, giving skin more elasticity, helping it look healthier, and repairing damaged body tissue.

Remember that tahini is an energy-dense food, so consume it in moderation.

Video: Grinding sesame seeds into tahini paste on traditional millstones at Al Yasmin, Abu Gosh Village, Israel. 



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