The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

August 28, 2013

Amanda Stone: Sunflower more than a pretty face

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.

Source: bonappetit.com

 

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