Seeds and nuts are a great source of snacking protein. Unfortunately, some varieties can be quite expensive making it difficult to add them into a daily routine. Luckily, sunflower seeds are not usually too expensive, and are even less pricey if you grow and harvest them at home. Sunflower seeds are also a great source of Vitamin B, calcium and iron making them a great alternative to junk food type snacks. Another benefit of growing and roasting them at home is that you can control the sodium levels. Sunflower seeds packaged and sold in stores often times contain high amounts of sodium that can outweigh the nutritional benefits of this easy to produce snack.
Growing sunflowers at home is fairly easy if you start your seeds at the right time and maintain the growth of the plant. I have several blog posts on this topic if you’d like to check that out. In this post, I’m going to mostly focus on the harvesting and the roasting of the seeds themselves. I do highly encourage everyone to try growing their own sunflowers. They are fun to watch grow because they start as tiny seeds and grow into monstrous sometimes 6 feet tall flowers that follow the sun with their big golden faces. Our sunflowers were of the Mammoth variety, making them very large in size and produced loads of seeds per head. All in all, 4 flowers were originally seeded and 3 of them made it through a full life cycle. The flower you see in these images was actually the smallest of the 3, but still produced enough sunflower seeds to keep us snacking for days if not a couple weeks.
To begin, make sure that the sunflower head has spent enough time on it’s stalk to completely dry out. This can be determined by the stalk and the back of the flower itself turning yellow and even brown in color. Some people have issues with birds and other critters stealing the seeds as they dry, if you have this issue, you can always cut the heads of the flowers off first and dry them inside by hanging them upside down by their stalk. Once the seeds have completely dried out, you can remove the head of the flower from the stalk by cutting it with your garden shears or scissors.
Once the head is removed, bring it inside and give it a good rinse to remove any loose leaves or other outside remnants. Remove the outer leaves as well. Once removed, you can start pulling the seeds from the flower. I did this by gently bending the body of the flower head outward and popping the seeds out with my hands, sort of like an ice cube tray.
Once all the seeds have been removed, place them in a bowl of water and add salt if desired. I used a couple teaspoons of Himilayan pink salt, but you can use regular salt or leave them unsalted if you prefer. Let them soak in the water overnight. This will keep the seeds from over-roasting in the oven as well as help the seeds to absorb the salt from the water (if added).
After the seeds have finished soaking, you can preheat your oven to 300°F and place the seeds on a parchment lined baking sheet. Try to remove as much water from the seeds as you can by first straining them out of the water and then patting them with a paper towel. This step can be a bit frustrating since the seeds will want to stick to the towel, but just try to make sure that all the seeds end up in a single layer on the parchment paper. Roast the seeds for about 30-40 minutes. Mine went for 35 minutes, and I could smell them roasting at about 30 minutes. You want the shells to turn a nice golden brown color.
Let the seeds cool before storing them. I like to put them in a plastic bag or in a jar to maintain their freshness. And that’s it! Now you have a surplus of snacking seeds and you did it all from home! It’s always so fun to see the fruits from your garden being made into things you might buy all the time without thinking about how they’re made. This was definitely one of those projects for me 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever made sunflower seeds or if you plan on planting them next year.
Until next time,