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The story of our tahini begins in the Humera region of Ethiopia, where the altitude is perfect for sesame growth. Here, our fair trade farmers produce the organic sesame seeds that are going to provide the quality and unique flavors of our finished tahini products. The seeds are carefully harvested and with the utmost care they are shipped to Jerusalem and Nablus, where they are inspected by chef Kamel Hashalmon. Once they have passed under Kamel’s watchful eye, he begins the process of preparing the seeds for tahini production.
At this point the story of the seeds, merges with the story of the stones. Until 100,000 years ago, the area of the Golan Heights was home to active volcanoes; the lava rolled from the high points down to the east and the west, leaving a plateau of basalt rock which makes up the Golan Heights as we have them today. It’s from this basalt rock that Kamel’s millstones have been formed. Bought from Syria, these millstones have been grinding sesame seeds for generations, a tradition that Kamel proudly continues today.
The seeds are slowly and methodically crushed between the antique stones, and only once they have reached the perfect consistency will the stones be gradually silenced, and the tahini paste will rest before being jarred and prepared for shipping. The East Jerusalem Goods Company chose to work with Kamel for our sesame products, because of his careful attention to detail, quality, and his philosophy which like our own, dictates that a food item is more than just taste. We believe in the links created by food between people, between places, between generations. Kamel created the El Najem line exclusively for our customers, in order that our clients can know that what they receive isn’t just food, but rather is a link to the Middle-East’s past, present, and future.
The tahini paste can be used alone as a supplement to various dishes such as roasted eggplant, or even ice cream. It can also be made in to a sauce which lends itself wonderfully to salad dressings, bread dips, and compliments meat and vegetables alike.
In addition to being delicious, the health benefits of tahini are multi-fold. Calcium is one of the highest components of the paste, but it is also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, protein, and healthy fats.
The tahini that you buy from the East Jerusalem Goods Company is the paste. This can be used raw as a spread on bread, as a topping on ice cream, or an addition to roasted eggplant amongst many other things. The paste is thick and many people like to create a sauce from it; this is what you might be familiar with from a falafel stand or your local middle-eastern restaurant. This sauce is very easy to make at home by combining the paste with water, lemon juice, crushed garlic, a touch of salt, and some olive oil if desired. This creates a more fluid product that can be more easily spread or added as a condiment to other foods such as meats, breads or vegetables.
The only ingredient in the paste is sesame seed. Therefore the product is completely vegan, and even when made in to a tahini sauce it retains its vegan nature. In addition to being vegan, it is also very healthy with high levels of calcium and iron. The East Jerusalem Goods Company sources raw materials that are grown entirely organically as well as in accordance with fair trade practices. Meaning that this product is vegan, healthy, and environmentally conscious.
A good quality tahini like ours is made entirely of sesame seed; there are no other ingredients in the product. For a typical sauce however, the sesame seed paste is mixed together with water, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and sometimes olive oil.
Tahini is one of the healthiest foods in the Middle-Eastern kitchen; this is just one of the reason why it has become so popular in use around the world. It contributes a healthy amount of calcium, magnesium, and iron to the daily diet, and provides pro rata more protein than most nuts and milk. In addition, it is rich in vitamins B and E, which respectively can boost energy levels and help to prevent heart disease and strokes. Whilst it appears to be quite high in fat, the fats are healthy natural fats, and over 50% come from monounsaturated fatty acids, which have very healthy anti-inflammatory properties. Due to our faithfulness to organic food production, it is also completely free from any artificial or chemical substances.