|Traditional Food Plants of Kenya (National Museum of Kenya, 1999, 288 p.)|
syn: Sesamum indicum L.
English: sesame, baniseed, sesamum Swahili: mfuta, ufuta, uvuta, simsim Chonyi: ufuha Digo: ufunha Giriama: ufuha Luo: nyim Luhya (Maragoli): tsinuni Luhya (Tachoni): chikhanu Kambe: ufuha Sanya: sisino Somali: salalmac Teso: ikanyum
Description: An erect annual plant up to 2 m, more often 1.0-1.5 m. LEAVES: Lobed (lower) or lanceolate (upper). FLOWERS: Purple to white. FRUIT: A capsule to 4.5 cm long which dehisces releasing cream, brown to black seeds depending on variety.
Ecology: Widely cultivated in the tropics, especially in Asia. Grown on a small scale in the Coast, Western and Nyanza Provinces. Wild populations found in southern Turkana, West Pokot and northern Kenya in open grassland, bushed grassland, roadsides and disturbed areas, 0-1,500 m. Wild populations common at about 1,000 m. Often found on loam soils. Rainfall: 400-1,200 mm. Zones: III-VI.
Uses: FOOD: Simsim is grown for its oil-rich seeds. Seeds are baked into a cake or fried and rolled into balls; commonly seen in markets in western parts of Kenya. Sweet seeds are often fried with those of the Bambarra groundnut (Luhya) and served to visitors on special occasions. Cooking oil is also extracted from the seeds. Leaves eaten as a vegetable (Digo). Seeds mixed with grain flour and used in baking cakes (Duruma). Seeds often sprinkled on bread and cakes. Among the Mijikenda, seeds are fried then pounded in a mortar to a thick soft oily paste. This is served as the mboga with ugali.
COMMERCIAL: Seed cakes and sweet balls sold in major markets, especially in western Kenya; also seen in supermarkets. Oil is of great commercial value. Bread and cakes sprinkled with simsim are common.
Management: Sesame may be sown in lines or by broadcasting. Seeds are small and usually mixed with loose soil for more even sowing. It may be intercropped with other crops such as maize. As soon as the lower capsules start to dry (lower ones mature earlier), the plant may be cut or uprooted and dried for about a week, normally while suspended upside down. They are then threshed to release the seeds which fall on a sheet spread below, a mat (mkeka) or a large shallow doum-palm basket (tuguu). Seeds are then winnowed before storing. In small gardens, individual capsules may be picked as they mature.
Remarks: Sesame is a traditional food for the Luhya, Luo and coastal peoples. In Kenya most of the sesame produced is consumed in the areas where it is grown and in larger towns by the same communities that grow them. Thus, there is a need for promotion of the crop among the other communities.