Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Sunflower Summer and How We Made Our Own Sunflower Seeds

I have never been a huge fan of sunflowers, but last summer my husband convinced me to plant a sunflower garden next to our raised beds.  I was excited about the "good" bugs that they would bring our veggie garden, but I didn't realize just how much I would fall in love with these gorgeous flowers.  Needless to say, I am a changed woman!  Even though we only had a Nikon CoolPix point and shoot camera at the time (we have since upgraded to a DSLR), I was obsessed with trying to get the most stunning sunflower pictures!  They may not be professional grade, but to say the least, I had fun taking them and my little doll of a model just loved hiding in them.

If you have never planted sunflowers, I highly recommend doing it!  They are easy to grow and come in the most stunning shapes and sizes.  The added bonus: lots of lady bugs and bees hanging around!

So this summer when my hubby pulled out the sunflower seeds, I was fully on board.  This summer however, he had an ulterior motive; he wanted the seeds!  To be honest, I was kind of excited about this new endevour.  I love trying something new... especially if it is something I get to make that normally we would buy.  I am not a huge sunflower seed fan, but the hubby loves easting sunflower seeds and now big sis is quite the fan as well.

How we made our own sunflower seeds...

Since I had never done this before, I went on a sunflower seed how to hunt.  I found a resource that I thought couldn't sound more perfect: the National Sunflower Association, which just so happens to have a zillion facts about sunflowers AND and very simple How to Roast In Shell Sunflower Seeds.  I basically followed these very simple directions with the addition of some flavors we already had on hand for a fun little experiment!

These were HUGE sunflowers, I must start by stating!  We found our seeds just by browsing the local garden section finding Ferry Morse Organic Sunflower, Mammoth seeds.  We had a blast watching them grow all summer and as fall made it's claim, we cut down three of the heads to use for seeds... yep, you heard me right- just three of them!  Just check out how amazingly large these guys were!

To start out, using gloves, I pulled out all the seeds into a large bowl.  They fall out fairly easy... and little sis even came to help mom!

Using a salad spinner I washed these little suckers a zillion times until the water came out clean, each time picking out any little pieces of stem, leaves, or dried flower that followed my seeds into the bowl.  Patience may be a necessity here!  As per the National Sunflower Associations website, I mixed the seeds with water and salt and let soak overnight.

{I also found this cool website,  that had a trick for cracking and separating the seed from the shells- I haven't tried, but maybe next year!  Especially since I found a recipe for Pesto made with sunflower seeds... doesn't that sound amazing!?}

The next day after the long salty soak, I rinsed and dried the seeds.  I separated into three different sheets for roasting.  I decided to sprinkle one with a  BBQ seasoning we had on hand, a ranch mix, and the third portion was left plain.  We roasted the seeds about 45 minutes on 300 degrees.  The National Sunflower Association suggested 30-40 minutes at 300, but they didn't seem quite "dry" enough, so we left in a bit longer!

We pulled them out of the oven and let the cool for hours.  Once they were nice and cool, I just used zip-lock bags to store the seeds (the website suggests airtight containers).  Dad and big sis have been enjoying their custom made little snack!  The three sunflower heads made four zip-lock sandwich baggies full plus enough for me to give a nice little snack to the chickens (I think they liked our little project as well!).
Have you ever made your own sunflower seeds?  Do you have any fun tips or recipes to share?  Please share in the comments section below if you do!  I'd love to store any neat ideas for next year's sunflower garden :-)

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