Sesame Seeds


Sesamum indicum

HEIRLOOM. Our seedstock comes from Monticello, where Thomas Jefferson grew sesame (also known as Benne, or Benni) to press the seeds for oil. This vigorous, heat-loving crop should be transplanted after the last frost. Space plants 12-24 in apart. Plants grow up to 6-ft tall and may benefit from staking. Be careful not to over water. These plants are very drought tolerant, and don't like having wet feet! Harvest by cutting stalks when there are more brown pods than green and standing them upright to dry indoors. Turn dried stalks upside down over a tarp or cloth, shake the seeds out, and winnow.

SMALL FARM GROWN by The Utopian Seed Project, Leicester, NC

  • Planting Information
  • Growing Information
  • Seed Saving


Approx. seeds / packetPacket weight
Seeds / gram 
Average seeds / oz
0.5 grams 
Planting SeasonIdeal Soil TempSunFrost Tolerance
After Last Frost70-80°FFull SunFrost Sensitive
Sowing MethodSeed DepthDirect Seed SpacingDays to Harvest 
Transplant1/16" 120-150
Mature SpacingDays to SproutProduction CycleSeed Viability

Sesame is a heat-loving and drought-tolerant plant native to India and North Africa. Because it is frost-sensitive and takes a long growing season, it is best to start seeds indoors about 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Use a heat mat to provide the 70 degree soil temperature that sesame seeds need to germinate, and cover seeds very lightly with growing medium. Expect to see sprouts in 10-14 days. Keep the soil moist during germination and early seedling establishment, then be careful not to over water.


When average outdoor temperatures have reached 70 degrees and danger of frost has passed, transplant your sesame outside. Since sesame doesn't do well with waterlogged soil, try to choose a spot that isn't right next to other plants that need regular watering. Space plants 1-2 feet apart. 


Harvest sesame when the seed pods start turning brown and begin to open, by cutting the whole stalks and bringing them indoors to dry. Stand them upright or lay flat to dry, or hang them upside down over a container to catch the seeds that fall out as the pods open. Shake the stalks over a container to get the last seeds out, then remove any small chaff by winnowing. (Pour the seeds from one container into another in front of a fan to blow away the light debris.) Make sure to dry the seeds thoroughly before storing them in an airtight container. 

Sesame, Sesamum indicum

Pollination: insect. Life Cycle: annual. Isolation Distance: unknown, estimated 1/2 mile

Sesame is insect-pollinated and crossing will occur between different varieties grown in proximity (for example, a black seeded and a white seeded variety could present cross-pollination concerns). Follow the same instructions for seed harvesting found in the growing information, and take special care to dry the seeds thoroughly and store them in a cool, dark, dry location.