Introducing the Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
We grow them in our gardens, maybe sprinkle the seeds on our salads and muesli, but how much do we really know about the all-round power of the sunflower?
The tallest member of the daisy family, the sunflower takes it's name from the Greek words 'helios' meaning sun, and 'anthos' meaning flower - a name given not only for it's resemblance to the radiant beams of the sun, but also because of the way the flower heads follow the sun by day, always turning towards its direct rays. The huge single blooms are in fact made up of hundreds of tiny individual flowers, each capable of producing only one seed.
The genus Helianthus contains 67 species of sunflower, native to the Americas.
One species - Helianthus tuberosus, which has edible roots, is commonly known as Jerusalem artichoke.
In its native Peru the sunflower was highly revered by the Aztecs and in their temples of the Sun, the priestesses were crowned with sunflowers and carried them in their hands. The early Spanish conquerors found in these temples numerous representations of the sunflower wrought in pure gold.
Sunflower seeds are perhaps the most versatile of all the nuts and seeds. Their mild flavour and pleasant crunch are great in many recipes – raw or roasted, whole or ground into meal or butter, or sprouted like other seeds.
You can substitute whole or chopped sunflower seed kernels for other nuts in any recipe. Sprinkle a few on top of a casserole before baking, or mix them into vegetable or fruit salads. Saute with chopped onion until the onion is tender and the seeds are brown, then toss with a cooked vegetable before serving – especially good with green beans and roasted pumpkin!
Grind sunflower kernels to a fine meal and use them as a substitute for some of the flour in bread and other baked goods, or pancakes. To make meal, use a grain grinder, coffee grinder, or blender. If you prefer, toast the seeds before grinding them and sprinkle the toasted meal on cereal, on yoghurt, in casseroles, or in vegetable burgers.
Sunflower seeds are nutritional powerhouses!
High in protein, essential fatty acids, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium, silicon, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B, D, E and A.
The vitamin D stored in the sun-filled seeds aids calcium utilisation. They make an ideal source of the sun vitamin (D) during the long winter months, helping the body to absorb calcium and other essential nutrients.
The high level of B complex vitamins, particularly pantothenic acid (B5), is nourishing to the adrenal glands. Poor adrenal function usually results in energy slumps, so reach for the sunflower seeds when feeling the sugar cravings for a healthy and effective energy 'pick-me-up'! Sunflower seeds are an excellent bowel toner and therefore ideal for detoxing and bowel cleansing diets, also to treat constipation.
They are rich in pectin, which binds radioactive residues and removes them from the body, so they are excellent food for all of us who are exposed to radiation from any source – eg. power lines, tv's, computer monitors, microwave ovens, mobile phones etc.
Sunflower oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, and linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid destroyed by heat and light, which is why sunflower oil should always be cold-pressed. It has a protein content of 25%, has a high potassium/low sodium ratio and also a high concentration of lipotropic constituents. Lipotropic
literally means 'fat mover' and refers to substances that are able to assist the liver in metabolising fats and removing them from the bloodstream. A study carried out in Sweden showed that a diet rich in sunflower oil lowered the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
The seeds and oil have a diuretic and expectorant effect and thus have been employed in the treatment of lung and throat infections, coughs, colds and whooping cough.
The oil (cold-pressed of course) has a healing effect when applied to the skin as a treatment for scaly dermatitis.
Sprouting a sunshine snack Growing your own sunflower sprouts is inexpensive and fun, and creates a healthful snack or addition to salads. They contain all the goodness of the raw seeds plus vitamin C.
Hulled seeds sprout faster, taking only 24 hours.
Seeds still in their shells will take a couple of days – the hulls can be picked off just before you eat the sprouts.
Soak the seeds in water for up to 5 hours before draining them and putting them in your choice of sprouter – a large glass jar with some muslin or mesh over works very well. Rinse seeds twice a day, draining well to ensure they are not sitting in water.
Eat the juicy sprouts within 2-3 days for maximum nutrition. Will keep in the fridge for an extra couple of days if need be.
Growing your own Sunflowers are easy to grow in any sunny, sheltered position and it's still not too late to plant out young plants. Prepare soil well before planting by adding well-rotted manure or compost to ensure tall strong plants and plenty of beautiful blooms.
Keep plants well-watered, especially when the buds start to fatten up in the weeks before flowering.
Depending on variety, flowering commences within 7-12 weeks. Mulching with lawn clippings will help retain soil moisture
Harvesting seed for home use:
The seeds are ready when the heads begin to shrivel and turn brown, usually when around 2/3 of the seeds have developed. To beat the birds cover the flower heads with muslin or nylon mesh as soon as the seeds begin to turn brown.
To harvest, cut the plants at ground level and hang the covered heads upside down in a warm airy room to finish drying. When they are completely dry the seeds will fall out easily.
Store in a cool dark place.
To hull the seeds:
(For maximum freshness hull just before eating). Use a grain mill with its settings as far open as possible. The hulls should break open and most of the kernels should remain intact. Otherwise add ¼ to ½ cup at a time to a blender, although this method will tend to break more of the kernels.
Separate the hulls from the kernels put stirring them around in a pan of water – the hulls will float to the top and can be skimmed off. Drain the water and dry the seeds.
1 cup sunflower seeds (soaked overnight)
1 cup green sauerkraut
fresh herbs of choice
Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
2 cups sunflower seeds
½ cup tahini
¼ cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced onion
½ cup water
In a frypan, toast the sunflower seeds over a medium heat until lightly browned. Put the hot seeds in a large mixing bowl and add the tahini, stirring well to coat all the seeds. Spread the seeds out in a single layer around the bowl to
Mix the lemon juice and garlic in a food processor then add the coated seeds and the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth and serve with crackers or bread.
Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.
Chewy Sunflower Bars
2¼ cups rolled oats
½ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sunflower oil (or softened butter)
½ cup honey
¾ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup chocolate chips/ raisins/ coconut/ chopped
apricots (whatever takes your fancy!)
Preheat oven to 165C.
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Lightly press the mixture into a greased and lined tin and cook until golden (up to 20 minutes).
Cool before cutting into bars.
Don't try to remove from tin until the bars are completely cool!
Make energy rich sunflower seed ball snacks by mixing:
1 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup cocoa powder
Shape into balls and then roll in toasted sesame seeds or desiccated coconut.
This newsletter was compiled by Rebecca, with reference to:
Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill - Erasmus, A Modern Herbal – Mrs M. Grieve, Penguin
Growing Today magazine – Dec 2001 issue
Healing with Wholefoods –Paul Pitchford
Encarta Online Encyclopaedia 2001
The Whole Health Handbook – Manfred Urs Koch
Wholefood Facts – Evelyn Rohl
Firstly I'd just like to say "Happy New Year" to all our customers and thankyou for your continued support.
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Italian Spelt Almond cookies $8.90/ 250g packet
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Fruit and vege update:
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Other seasonal treats include fresh peas, runner beans and French beans, sweetcorn, courgettes, tomato