Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Homegrown Sunflower Seeds

I grew a few sunflowers in the summer. Despite the dry (near enough no rain at all from July to September) they grew tall and strong and produced enormous flower heads. I left the flowers on, fully expecting the birds to eat all the seeds, but by early November they had hardly been touched, so I picked the two largest, the size of dinner plates. The rest I left on the plants, and the birds have at last moved in on them.

A bumblebee (bourdon) enjoys the generous amounts of
pollen on one of our sunflowers.
Once again the new mantlepiece came in handy, as the harvested seed heads sat upside down in the gentle warmth to dry out completely prior to being shucked. After a few days on the mantlepiece, I put them out with the apples and nuts stored in boxes in the entry hall - cold and dry and ideal for long term produce storage. A few days ago I finally got round to rubbing the seeds off the dead dried flowers. The next step was to soak the seeds over night, then rinse several times. Sunflower seeds are really dusty, and washing them helps get rid of miscellaneous unwanted fibrous bits. While they were soft from being soaked we sat in front of the fire, listening to the radio and separating kernels from husks. This took a rather long time, and the end result is a bit meagre. The kernels are rather small, due the dry weather when they were developing. Sunflowers are grown commercially around here, and the farmers had the same problem with low yields this year.

About halfway through cleaning the kernels.
The kernels were soaked in brine overnight and are now spread out on the mantlepiece to dry once more. The seeds saved from our homegrown pumpkins were also brined and dried like this. The mantlepiece seems to have just the right level of dry warmth for producing perfectly dried seeds with lots of flavour.

We've got about 4 apéro nibbles bowls worth out of two big sunflower heads. Simon commented that their calorific value needs to be substantial to make all the work we've put in processing them worthwhile. These sunflowers, like the cherries and the hazelnuts before them, make me appreciate why some produce is so expensive to buy in the supermarket - they are really labour intensive to process.



Leon Sims said...

Sitting in front of the Tele in July, early hours of the morning watching (in OZ on SBS) Le Tour and the sunflowers cover the fields. Thank for that memory.

Tim said...

Susan, I don't know what types of pumpkin you grow, but have you tried growng the seeds saved from F1 species... it can be fun! We had some Rond de Nice and a Lebanese type courgette growing with Gold Nugget summer squash. The seeds from the Gold Nugget fruit the next year gave us the most delicious golden courgettes with a dense creamy flesh and a rich flavour... we'll do that one again but it is always a lucky dip approach. The seeds kept from one of our Crown Princes this year will be the 'experiment' this year.
They were grown in a bed with butternut 'Hunter', potimarron onion squash and winter squash 'Squashkin'[F1], the latter being a cros between Crown Prince and a butternut... could be very interesting.

Paulita said...

That seems like a lot of work. I didn't know how much went into it either. You guys are like modern-day pioneers. Thanks for the insight.

Jean said...

Thanks for a lovely picture of a sunflower to cheer me up and remind me that this awful weather won't last forever.

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