Thank you to Nagraj Salian@Flickr from Mumbai, India for sharing today's photograph — here's the original via the BPotD Flickr Group Pool. You might like to view Nagraj's photo sets of flowers or his hiking / trekking trips, by the way. Thanks Nagraj – we're always pleased to have a first-time contributor!
If you haven't guessed from the name of the genus, this is the species responsible for sesame seeds and oil. Cultivated since antiquity, its origin is unknown; GRIN (the Genetic Resources Information Network) suggests a possible origin of Sesamum indicum in India or Africa (the Wikipedia entry goes into more details). Its plant family, the Pedaliaceae, has a similar range, i.e., primarily tropical Old World.
Whenever a spice is featured on BPotD, it's a given that we turn to Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages. Once again, Gernot doesn't disappoint. His detailed page on Sesamum indicum is fascinating, particularly the discussion on hot-pressed oils vs. cold-pressed oils (which I now understand). This transitions into a discussion on how sesame seeds are used for culinary purposes in various cultures.
One property of sesame not touched on by Gernot but mentioned on the GRIN page is allergenic responses to the plant, particularly contact dermatitis. The Botanical Dermatology Database goes into detail: Pedaliaceae @ BoDD (scroll down to Sesamum indicum).
On a final note, I see that Gernot is involved in a museum display on spices. If you're in or near Oldenburg, Germany before the end of this year, do visit the Chiles, Devil’s Dung and Saffron exhibition at the Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch Oldenburg.