Sesame seeds, despite their tiny size, are a valuable cash crop. They come from the Sesamum Indicum plant, which is native to Africa but is now found mostly throughout Asia, with Myanmar and India the largest producers. Sesame plants are the oldest oilseed plants known to man, and the oil is used around the world for both cooking and medicinal purposes. The seeds themselves are used as a spice or a seasoning, perfect for adding a pop to that fast food burger's bun.
The sesame plant is an annual that can grow to a little over three feet tall. The flowers are white, pink, or pinkish-purple, and the seeds grow inside elongated pods. When harvest time rolls around, stalks are bundled and the seeds are extracted from inside their pods.
In their natural state, the little guys are dark brown, and most likely to be found in health food stores. Seeds that are used for breads and buns are often washed and go through a bleaching process to make them appear whiter. McDonald’s purchases approximately 75 percent of the sesame seed crop grown in Mexico, and their purchasing power parity influences global market pricing for sesame seeds every year.