Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Roasting Sunflower Seeds - something new to me.

 Last year I planted sunflowers, planning to dry out the heads to feed the birds over the winter.  They grew about as tall as me, but I wasn't able to actually harvest anything because the squirrels were hanging upside down on them, eating up all the seeds before they were big enough to harvest.  This year, I didn't plant any sunflowers at all, but a whole row of volunteers sprang up by themselves so I let them grow.

 This one in particular was interesting as there were about 10 sunflowers off the one stem.  I have never seen that before.
They grew to be enormous!  I am about 5'8" or so, and this is as high as I could reach on this one...and I was stretching.  
So now...on to the roasting...  I had never done this before, so I did a little internet research.  I read that there are two ways you can do this.  You can let the sunflower heads dry out on the plant, or you can cut them off and air dry them.  I thought I would try a few of each and see which worked best.
If you are going to cut them off, you need to wait until the back of the sunflower (pictured here) starts to turn yellow.  This one was not quite ready, so I decided to let it dry on the plant.
 I collected three huge heads to air dry.  That steak knife is in there for scale.  The smallest one pictured is about the size of a dinner plate.  Woo-woo.
 On the left is one that I cut and let air dry...yucky!  A few of them had moldy spots, the backs of the sunflowers were quite soft, and it was just an all around mess getting the seeds out.  The one on the right was allowed to dry on the plant.  Much much better!  There were a few insects here and there, but a lot less than the cut and air dried sunflowers.
 So, I just brushed off those little blossoms with my hand...they fell off almost by themselves.
 After a little while, I realized the seeds could be removed much more easily if I split the sunflower into chunks.  I just ripped it apart with my hands (by the way, I was doing this outside because I knew there would be seeds everywhere...oh, and earwigs...beware the earwigs!)  I am sure there is a tool out there designed to get all those seeds out, but just picking and scraping with your fingers works just fine...especially if it is just an experiment to see how things go...
 While you are working, please take a moment to admire what nature can do all by itself!  Pretty isn't it?
 I ended up collecting a bowl full (more than what is pictured).  I have a suggestion...maybe do one or two sunflowers at a time, or recruit some gets a little tedious after a while.  I had recruited some help, but then their friends came over and they all disappeared on me.  Hmmm.  Oh, and don't feel you have to do them all at once.  Turns out they hold just fine once they are removed.  I was worried about bugs, but I just covered the whole thing with a cloth and two days later, it was still point is you could do them a bit here and there over a period of a few days until you have enough instead of in one big power session if you so choose.

I wanted mine salted, so I made a brine.  It took about 2 1/2 quarts/litres (well, 2 1/2 peanut butter jars, cuz that is what was sitting right beside me) to cover the seeds in the bowl.  I added just under 3/4 cups of salt and stirred the whole thing around.  I ended up putting an inverted plate on the seeds to keep them submerged, but I don't think that would actually be necessary.  I let them soak for 24 hours (it was just supposed to be 12, but honestly...I forgot all about them in the excitement of my first pottery class of the season - ps:  they were just fine after 24). 

Drain them and spread them out on a cookie sheet.  I left them there to dry for about  7 hours (you can pat them dry with a towel instead, but I had to go to work, so air dry it was!).

Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Check them every couple of minutes after the 30 minute mark.  You can just split one in half and taste it to check if it is how you like it.  I went to 40 and they kind of taste like roasted pumpkin's all about what you are looking for, right?
I was expecting them to look a lot different, but they come out looking just like when they went in.  It is OK if they split (in fact my internet research said that they will split) - mine didn't...also OK.
Let them cool and store them in an airtight container.  They should be shelf stable for a good long while.

I found that this is pretty forgiving.  You can kind of do it at your own pace.  If you forget about them, or just get too busy, they will be OK.  It would be a great project to do with kids...we just had bad timing...their friends came back from holidays the day I started, so they got distracted and disappeared on me.  They sure liked the results though.  All in all, I am pretty sure I will be doing this again next year.  N wants to try with dill pickle, so I might try some herbs or spices in the brine, or sprinkled on top when they are in the oven.

If you experiment, let me know how it works out for you.

Happy Roasting.

I'll be linking up with Carnival of Home Preserving at Laura William's Musings on Friday
                                barn hop on homestead revival on Monday.


  1. What a fabulous post. Sounds like fun, and I love sunflower seeds. First, I must move to a place warm enough to grow them, because wow--how beautiful. Most send this post along to my Grandma. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh yum! I love sunflower seeds! Thank you for sharing this at the Carnival of Home Preserving!