Turkey is a major producer of golden sesame seeds and the Fethiye region is no exception.

Fields of Gold: harvesting sesame, Turkey's healthy energy food
Harvesting sesame, Turkey’s healthy energy food

In the late summer sun, traditional methods are still used to harvest and dry these energy-rich seeds in the Fethiye and Muğla region.

Sesame seeds have many uses

Simit seller on Çalış beach
Simit seller on Çalış beach

In Turkey, many food products contain sesame; ranging from simit to super sweet helva. They are used to make tahin (tahini); roasted and ground the seeds become a sweet, rich brown paste, and raw (for savoury dishes like hummus) they are transformed into a creamy white savoury paste. The oil from the seeds is used for cooking and occasionally, even now, for lighting.

Sesame encrusted simit
Sesame encrusted simit

An ancient crop

An ancient crop
An ancient crop

Sesame has been grown in this area for millennia and archaeological excavations in various parts of the Middle East have identified sesame oil dating back to 3,000 BCE.

harvesting sesame, Turkey's healthy energy food

One of the healthiest foods

Sesame is full of nutty goodness and although the crop is harvested in the late summer, the seeds are available throughout the year. As well as being full of important minerals, sesame is also thought to lower cholesterol and help with blood pressure problems.

Labour intensive

Harvesting without machinery is a laborious task. First the stalks are cut, then stacked vertically in a cone shape.

In some cases, the farmers place stones on top of the stacks to keep the cone in shape and weighed down in case of high winds.

The drying process is crucial, as the seeds are sensitive to rot, even when moisture levels are relatively low.

The cones in these pictures are still fairly green so it will be a few weeks before they are dry enough to shake and store.

But when dry, each stalk is shaken over a cloth to catch the seeds that scatter from the brittle pods.

What happens next

This tasty seed is then processed or stored to be used later; it’s either left raw, roasted to a golden brown, or otherwise processed.

Roasted sesame seeds look like this:

harvesting sesame, Turkey's healthy energy food
Roasted sesame seeds
light roasted sesame
light roasted sesame

Mixed with honey or pekmez (molasses) this tahin makes a super sweet high energy food!

sweet tahin paste - great mixed with honey
sweet tahin paste – great mixed with honey
Raw sesame seeds
Raw sesame seeds

These are the raw sesame seeds. Made into a creamy off-white paste, they’re used for making delicious dishes like hummus.

sesame

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