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Everything That You Need to Know About Sunflower Seeds

  • By JC's
  • September 18, 2019
  • In News

Sunflower seeds (also known as sunflower kernels) are a delicious, convenient and nutrient dense snack that are popular all across the world. The seeds themselves are harvested from the large flower head of the plant and can vary in size considerably. Each sunflower can hold anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 individual seeds which means that they can yield a bounty of produce for both food and oil purposes. Expect a mild, nutty taste when you chomp into a handful of sunflower seeds that will leave a warm and earthy flavour in your mouth.

History

 

Sunflower seeds have been rolling around for a long time. Research indicates that they were first found in the Americas and were domesticated around 1000 B.C. Native Americans used the sunflower plant and its seeds for eating, oil production and also dye pigment. These crunchy morsels were later introduced to Europe by travelling conquistadors returning to Spain. It didn’t take long before neighbouring countries caught on and sunflower seeds became a sort after commodity the world over. Russia, France, Peru, Spain, Argentina and China are currently the biggest growers in today’s market. Sunflower oil is also one of the most used oils available today.

Health benefits

 

Looking for a superfood that fits in the palm of your hand? Sunflower seeds are for you! You will enjoy a range of health benefits when you include them in your diet. This can include:

 

  • Reduced inflammation – sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E which helps to fight free radicals in the body. This is great because vitamin E prevents damage to cellular structures which can lead to inflammation. It can help to treat the symptoms associated with asthma, osteoarthritis and similar conditions. Research also indicates that Vitamin E plays a role in preventing cardiovascular disease.
  • Lower cholesterol – unique compounds found in sunflower seeds can help to bring down the level of cholesterol found in the blood. These compounds are known as phytosterols and offer properties that reduce the risk of specific cancers. If that’s not enough, they can also improve immune system function.
  • Management for diabetes – studies suggest that sunflower seeds provide health benefits when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels and the factors that contribute to type 2 diabetes. Links have been drawn between the chlorogenic acid found in sunflower seeds and a blood-sugar lowering effect.
  • Reduced stress – high magnesium levels found in sunflower seeds mean that they are great for calming nerves and relaxing muscles. This is because magnesium can help to regulate the over activation of nerve cells that is brought on by calcium in the body. Too much calcium can lead to headaches, migraines, cramps and tension issues and this is why magnesium dense sunflower seeds are a great addition to any diet.
  • Detoxification – your body will benefit from the added selenium that sunflower seeds supply. Selenium is a mineral that is vital to overall health and vitality. It assists with cell protection and repair and is believed to help reduce the risk of cancer. 

How and when to plant sunflower seeds

 

Sunflowers are easy to grow provided that they have the right set of conditions. They require plenty of direct sunlight to thrive but also protection from the wind. Amazingly, young sunflower plants will turn their head to face the sun to increase UV absorption and at the same time shield their more sensitive stalk.

For planting, it’s important to have well drained soil for best results. A soil condition range of between pH level 6.0 and 7.5 is perfect. The most important thing to remember, however, is that sunflowers need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. That’s a lot of exposure!

The best time to sow sunflower seeds is during Spring or early summer because that is when the soil is starting to rise in temperature. Following that, you can expect to begin harvesting after around 10 weeks.

 

Tip: Mix compost into your soil to boost the nutrient level prior to planting.

How and when to harvest sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds can be harvested 10 weeks after they’ve been planted. To access them, you’ll want to let the flower dry on or off the stem until the back of the head turns brown and the seeds look plump and somewhat loose. Cut the head off the plant (approx 6 inches below the flower head) using sharp pruners and place in a bucket or container to catch any seeds that fall loose. Take the sunflower head in your hand and remove the seeds by rubbing over the seeded area. Alternatively, you can use a fork or rub the head of the sunflower across a washboard. 

 

How to eat sunflower seeds

Looking to add some crunch to your next meal? Sprinkle sunflower seeds throughout your masterpieces for a great texture and a nutty flavour that is sure to go down a treat. People have been using sunflower seeds in muesli and trail mix for years because they are tasty, healthy and convenient. You’ll also find them in bready pull-a-parts, fruit loaves, salads, curries, burger patties and much more. The oil from sunflower seeds is also a staple inclusion in many kitchens because it provides a unique flavour and smoking point for cooking.

 

J.C.’s tasty recipe ideas

Check out these recipe ideas and you’ll soon be cooking up a storm with sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seed pesto

If you love a delicious pesto sauce, then this recipe won’t disappoint. This rich and decadent blend includes all of the classic ingredients but comes with a twist – sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Add our sunflower seed pesto to pasta dishes, meat dishes and cheese boards that need a little extra flavour.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Directions

Preparation is important with this recipe so you’ll want to thoroughly rinse the sunflower seeds and put them in a bowl or jar so you can soak overnight at room temperature. 

Drain and rinse the seeds and you’ll be ready to go. 

Next, purée sunflower seeds, basil, garlic, oil, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice to create a smooth consistency. 

Add salt to taste and enjoy your delicious and healthy sunflower seed pesto in any way that you like. 

Tip – feel free to add water if your pesto is too thick. You can also add ingredients such as parmesan cheese for extra flavour.

Breakfast muesli bowls

When rushing in the morning, there’s nothing better than knowing that you already have breakfast prepared. That’s why our muesli bowls are a great idea. They can be prepared well in advance and will give you all the energy that you need to kick some serious goals. Expect plenty of crunch with each and every bite.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup flaked almonds
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup honey 

Directions

The beauty of this recipe is that the cooking process is quick and easy. 

Preheat oven to 180°C and add honey and oil in a pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally and remove once combined. 

In a large baking tray, pour oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, pepitas, walnuts and coconut and mix thoroughly with your hands. 

Add your sweet mixture and stir until all of the ingredients are adequately covered. 

Cook in the oven for up to 15 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the dish to avoid burning.    

Allow to cool and then serve with almond milk or yogurt. Feel free to garnish with fresh fruit for bonus points.

Nutty facts

 

  1. Did you know that sunflowers can help to soak up toxins and other nasties? Following the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, millions of sunflowers were planted nearby to help deal with the lingering radiation.
  2. The largest sunflower ever recorded hit a staggering 30 feet and one inch in height. Hans-Peter Schiffer solidified his three year reign as a Guinness World Record holder with this amazing feat in 2014.
  3. Sunflowers have been to space! American Don Pettit took sunflower seeds with him to the International Space Station and beamed back video and photo content that showcased his experience growing sunflowers in outer space.

The sunflower difference

 

J.C.’s Quality Foods is a family owned business that has been in operation since 1994. We package and deliver amazing produce that you will love. Reach out to us today to find out more about our delicious sunflower seeds (or as we like to call it, kernels!).