Vibrant smiling sunflowers are so beautiful that they bring a smile to our face. They are a food in more ways than the simple sunflower seed. So much of the sunflower plant is a delicious edible food during its growing life from seedling to full growth of seeds. Also, it is a very nutritious food to grow and add to our meals.
Grow a big patch of sunflowers so you can eat the various edible tasty bits of the plants all summer long.
7 Ways to Eat Your Sunflowers
- Grow seedlings to eat (see recipe below) or plant many in your garden and pull them up when they are about 6 inches tall.
- When the sunflower is in the bud stage they can be harvested and they taste like artichokes at this stage. You need to take off the bitter green around the bottom of the bud and then steam them.
- Sunflower seed oil is a healthy vegetable oil which is great for stir fries. Virgin sunflower oil is trans fat free and a good source of omega-3 (brain function and heart health) and omega-6 (healthy skin and hair).
- Stalks of a young sunflower are tender and taste like celery. Chop them and add to salads. Mature sunflowers have woody stalks and are not edible.
- Sunflower petals are also edible but note that they taste bitter so it is best to use them in a salad to add colour and a bittersweet flavour.
- Leaves of more mature plants are good in a salad or in a stir-fry, or steamed like greens and seasoned with lemon juice. The center ribs of leaves are tough so remove them before using them.
- Once the disc at the back of the sunflower head turns yellow place the flower heads in a dry place to allow the seeds to mature. When the flower head becomes dark brown, the seeds are ready to eat. You can eat them raw or you can toast them in the oven until the hulls begin to crack open. Cool and add salt for taste.
- If you live in the northern hemisphere you most likely will not be able to grow full Sunflowers, however, you can grow sunflower sprouts year round. Let’s start there.
Growing Sunflower Sprouts
- Cover sunflower seeds with water and soak overnight.
- Rinse and drain.
- Put them in a warm, dark cupboard.
- Rinse in the morning and night till they sprout. (you will see small shoots growing out of the seeds).
- Clean up the damaged seeds (brown or yellow ones).
- Put soil into the seed tray.
- Sprinkle the sprouted seed all across the tray. Make sure they do not overlap, they can be touching. Move them gently.
- Gently sprinkle a thin layer of soil over the seeds.
- Put the tray in a warm place out of direct sunlight.
- Keep them moist, water when needed. (Without enough water they will dry up but do not over water as it will create mould and rot).
- When the seed leaves are green and large they are ready to harvest. If the hairier leaves have grown they will not be sweet and tender.
- Remove any husks still left on the sprouts. If any are left they are not easy to eat and may make them spoil sooner.
- Harvest the sprouts by cutting them off at the base with scissors.
- Remove bits of soil by rinsing in cold water and spin dry in a salad spinner.
- Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container and they will last for 5 – 7 days.
- Enjoy them in your salads or green smoothies.
These sunflower sprouts are just ready for harvesting but they could have been left for a couple more days to get a bigger harvest and they will shed their husks and their seed leaves will open.
Try these tasty Sunflower seed recipes:
Simple Nutritious Spinach Salad with Sunflower Seeds