Sprouting Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are an excellent addition to our diet as they contain a wide range of nutrients and are readily available. Sprouting sunflower seeds enables us to take in even greater nutritional benefits. The uses of Sunflower seeds as a food are numerous and include:
- Being eaten on their own as a snack
- Garnishes / additions for salads and coleslaws
- Addition to breads
- Garnishes for soups
- Additions to smoothies recipes for texture
Sunflower sprouts are popular due to their great taste. Use hulled sunflower;
unhulled are for sunflower greens only. You can use any of the sprouting environments outlined in choosing a sprouter. Follow the soak and rinse cycle as outlined in grow your own sprouts. The seeds should be soaked for about 8 hours and Sunflower seeds take approximately 18 hours to sprout. Once sprouted the sprouts will store in the refrigerator for a few days. Skim off the seed skins to make the sprouts last longer without spoiling.
Raw sunflower seeds (as opposed roasted seeds that can be found in shops) have the most nutritional benefits and are suitable for sprouting. Sunflower seeds are a good source of linoleic acid – an essential fatty acid. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of Vitamin E, amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and minerals (including magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium).
They are also a good source of dietary fibre and contain phytosterols which can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Sunflower seeds can have a beneficial impact on our state of mind and lessen the chance of depression. Chemicals in our brain called neurotransmitters pass messages between the brains nerve cells and therefore these neurotransmitters affect our mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that when released gives a relaxing, content feeling that relieves tension. Sunflower seeds contain the amino acid Tryptophan that is responsible for processing serotonin.
The bright yellow Sunflower petals are poisonous so do not harvest them for addition to salads or as a garnish.
You can buy sunflower seeds in both hulled (with shell) and un-hulled (shell removed leaving just the kernel) form, roasted and raw. The kernel is the part of the seed that you eat.
Growing sunflowers for their seed
Growing sunflowers for their seed is both easy and fun. Children love to watch sunflowers grow and seeing what height they can get to and the bright colours are great for livening up your garden.
You should sow the seeds in early spring at around 1cm depth in a position that receive full / near full sun. Before sowing you can incorporate organic matter (such as garden compost or manure) into the soil. Space the sunflowers about 50cm apart. The time to harvest the crop of sunflower seeds is when the head of the sunflower starts to face downwards. Remove the whole head and hang in a dry well ventilated location. Remove the seeds from the head by hand or by using a spoon.
Storage of sunflower seeds
You can store unsprouted sunflower seeds for a number of months in a dry, airtight container in the dark. A great benefit of seeds is that you can stock up on them and so always have something available in the food cupboards, unlike many other healthy foods on a raw food diet such as fruits and vegetables that perish relatively quickly. Keeping the seeds cool will extend their shelf life.
There are two main types of sunflower seeds that are commercially used in different ways. Black husked sunflower seeds are most often used for producing sunflower oil as they have a higher fat content than striped sunflower seeds. This type of seed is often known as black oil sunflower seeds. The seeds are pressed under high pressure in order to extract the oil out of them. Sunflower oil is high in un-saturated fats and low in saturated fats.
Striped sunflower seeds have a lower oil content than the black hulled type and are the type that are normally used for food and sprouting.