Sesame seeds may very well be the first recorded seasoning, dating back to 3000 B.C. They originally grew in Africa and India. The seeds are contained in small capsules on the 2-foot-tall sesame plants, which are annuals.

The tiny flat seeds range in color from pale grayish-ivory (most common) to shades of brown, red and black.

The seeds are also used to produce oil. Because of their high oil content, sesame seeds spoil quickly. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months, refrigerated up to 6 months and frozen up to a year.

The nutty, slightly sweet flavor of sesame seeds make them versatile enough to be used in baked goods, candies, salads and other savory dishes.

Sesame Seed Recipes

Toasted sesame seeds are a nice contrast to the hearty ingredients and thick creamy dressing in Sesame Spinach Salad (pictured above). "I make this dish at least once a month," says Sue Collins of Shawnee, Kansas.

"For flavorful, moist and tender chicken, try the marinade in Sesame Chicken," suggests Julie Lake from Anchorage, Alaska. "The sesame seeds cling well to season the meat. We also like this mixture on chicken wings, beef short ribs and pork."

"A friend regularly supplies us with a fresh catch of fish," notes Nancy Zimmerman of Cape May Court House, New Jersey. "In this quick and easy recipe for Sesame Sole, sesame seeds add crunch and a tasty coating to the fillets."

These golden Sesame Seed Cookies, recommended by Joan Humphreys of Ellicott City, Maryland, are light inside, chewy outside and really showcase the flavor of sesame.