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Benne (Sesame)

Sesamum indicum

Grown by: Chelsea Askew in Mars Hill, NC

  • $5.00

Growing up to 6 feet tall with white flowers, this revived Low Country heirloom sesame is packed with flavor. Benne is the Bantu word for sesame, which was first domesticated in India, and is very important throughout Africa. West Africans brought these seeds to the West Indies and the southern US in the late 17th century and continued to grow patches for their use while enslaved. Later, benne oil became the salad dressing of choice in 19th century southern US. As cheaper oils became available, and as sesame was bred to shatter less (and unfortunately taste less too), the flavorful, aromatic benne was all but lost. This low-oil sesame landrace strain was preserved by David Shields and the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, and listed as an endangered, culturally important landrace by the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Read their thorough history and description of this important heirloom HERE.

Days to maturity: 160

Seeds per pack: 125

Germination rate: 84% on 12/04/2023

Planting / harvesting notes

Sow seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost date, 1/4" or less below the soil. Keep soil moist until germination. After the last frost, transplant outdoors 10-12" apart. Will grow about 3-feet tall.

Seed keeping notes

Harvest stalks when the first seed pods start to turn yellow. Put in a paper bag or hang over a bucket to finish maturing and drying. Whack in a bucket to remove seeds. Use a sieve to remove larger plant parts. Use breath, wind, or fans to winnow off lighter chaff and lighter immature seeds.


This product is part of the African Diaspora Collection.

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