Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

By the time readers view this copy, my little backyard garden should be in full swing. This year I planted the usual corn, sunflowers, radishes and tomatoes. What I did different this year was plant more herbs that I usually do. This seemed smart since I use a lot of herbs in my cooking. So, I now have oregano, basil and parsley. These are the herbs I use most frequently when preparing Italian food and other types of cuisine.

A favorite with the kids, however, are the sunflowers. Not because they are tall and pretty, but because they are so good to eat. The kids prefer them salted and roasted, so this month I'll give readers my recipe for preparing this nutritious and tasty snack. In addition, I've added a simple method for harvesting sunflower seed sprouts, a delicious and nutty addition to salads and stir fry dishes.

Now, on to the recipe! Be well, and good eating!

Roasted Sunflower Seeds

If you have never grown sunflowers, they are very easy to grow and do well in relatively poor soil as well as rich soil. It is important however that they have plenty of sunlight during the growing season. The sunflower is harvested when fully mature, after the petals have dried up or fallen off. You won't want to wait too long to harvest the head of the sunflower or the birds will end up eating most of the seeds. So, if you see any birds eating on the sunflower, it's time to harvest.

The sunflower is harvested by cutting off the entire head (or flower), of the plant. Remove the seeds from the head promptly or the moisture in the head is likely to start molding. I remove the seeds by hand, starting at the edge of the flower and working my way toward the center. The seeds come out easily when rubbed firmly with the fingers. I also place the head into a large paper bag when doing this to minimize cleanup. The head can be recycled or discarded after the seeds are removed.

  • Seeds from 3 mature sunflower heads
  • 1 lb. salt
  • Large pot of water (8 to 12 quarts)

Bring the water in the pot to a boil and add the salt. It's best if the water is saturated with salt, so if the pot is large add more salt if necessary. Reduce the salt if you don't want the seeds too salty. To the pot of boiling water, add the seeds and boil for about 20 minutes over medium heat. You will know when the seeds are ready when most of them sink. Remove any floating objects in the pot (empty seeds, leaves, etc.).

Once boiled, discard the water and allow the seeds to drain for about 10 minutes in a colander. Next spread the seeds evenly in a single layer on baking sheets and place into a preheated oven, 375 degrees. Stir the seeds after 10 minutes and repeat this every 10 minutes until all of the moisture has evaporated. Allow an extra 10 minutes in the oven to make sure the seeds are thoroughly roasted. Finally, remove the tray of seeds from the oven and allow to cool.

Roasted seeds will stay good for a long time if kept sealed in a ziploc bag or vacuum sealed. You will find that seeds roasted in this manner are much more flavorful than the seeds purchased in the market. Give it a try and enjoy!

Here's another thing I like to do when I have too many sunflowers: Allow the head to mature and cut from the stalk. Do not remove the seeds from the head. Place the sunflower head at a convenient sunny location in the garden and cover with about a quarter inch of soil. Water daily and in about a week the seeds will begin to sprout. When you see the sprouts coming up through the soil, harvest them immediately. Sunflower sprouts are not only nutritious, but they have an excellent nutty flavor. These sprouts are definitely an excellent gourmet addition to salads or stir fry, and it's not something you will find in the market. Enjoy!

  • Yields: 20 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour