JOPLIN, Mo. —
Sunflowers have so much to give. They stand tall with their pretty yellow faces pointed toward the sun when all the other plants are drooping and hiding. They can't get enough of that hot ball of fire in the sky.
I planted sunflower seeds way back in the spring, when it's hard to imagine how tall they're going to get. Now it's August, and those mammoth sunflowers are 10 feet high. When I planted them I had visions of them forming a screen to hide my garage. Not the best choice. Although colossal, their beauty is fleeting. Just a few short days after their sunshine-yellow petals emerge, they hang their heads as if in shame. My sunflowers looked truly miserable. So, I cut off their heads. I hate to see plants suffer.
Once the sunflowers were out of their misery, I yanked up their stalks for compost and started to inspect the flower faces for seeds. It is truly amazing how nature rewards us with so many seeds from just one plant. There are numerous kinds of sunflowers, but the mammoth variety is best for harvesting seeds.
Once your sunflowers are beheaded, it's time to deal with the numerous fat, striped seeds. Hang the sunflower heads upside down for a few days to dry, or go the lazy route and put them in a paper bag and wait for the seeds to eventually fall out. Apparently, I'm going the ultra-lazy route, because mine are still laying on my kitchen table... I'm sure the seeds will dry eventually.
After you've rubbed the seeds off the heads, hopefully by utilizing the fingers of small children, it's time to roast them. If you want them to taste like the ones from a bag, your best bet is to simmer them in salt water for about an hour, then roast them for 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Stir them a few times to prevent scorching. And be sure to try them raw first -- they're delicious straight out of the shell.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamins and minerals. They're high in vitamin E and copper, which help keep skin and hair healthy and act as natural anti-inflammatories. Sprinkle them on salads, sandwiches and smoothies for a nutty crunch. Or try these recipes for something a little different.
Shaved squash with sunflower seeds
2 large summer squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup torn fresh basil
2 tablespoons salted, roasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Shave squash lengthwise with a vegetable peeler and toss with lemon juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Top with feta, basil and sunflower seeds.
4 1/2 cups white-whole wheat flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
1 cup seeds (equal parts chopped pepitas, sunflower, poppy or whatever you like)
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds, toasted and crushed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups water, ice cold
Cornmeal for dusting baking sheet
Stir together the flour, salt, yeast and seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer. By hand, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is absorbed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 7 minutes or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Add a touch of water or flour to reach the desired effect. The finished dough will be springy, elastic and sticky, not just tacky. Transfer the dough to a floured countertop. Cut it into 6 equal pieces and mold each into a ball. Rub each ball with olive oil and slip into plastic sandwich bags. Refrigerate overnight.
When you are ready to make flatbread (anytime in the next few days), remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before making the bread. Keep them in a warm place, covered. At the same time, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you don't have a baking stone, you can use a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
Generously dust a sheet pan with a bit of flour or cornmeal. Uncover the dough balls and dust them with flour. Working one at a time, gently press and pull a dough round into a 6- to 8-inch disc. Place the pulled-out dough on the prepared pan.
Add pizza toppings, or just bake and eat. Bake until the crust is crisp and nicely colored, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com
No-bake oatmeal raisin cookies
1 cup quick oats or 1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup ground almonds
1 cup raisins (soaked in 1/2 cup water)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Whirl rolled oats in food processor (if needed to make fine flakes), then empty into a large bowl. Add seeds, ground almonds, raisins with soak water and cinnamon to food processor and grind to a dough-like consistency. Add to oats and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto a plate. Leave in balls or smash with a fork. Let chill until firm.
Have questions? Email them to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.