Sunflower greens taste great and have great nutritional value. Use these are step-by-step instructions for cultivating them at home.
Considering that sunflower seeds are almost 25% protein, it is no wonder that sunflower sprouts and greens, grown from these seeds, are nutritional super foods with few rivals. A mere 3.5 ounces of sprouted seeds contains a whopping 22.78 grams of protein! The same amount of chicken breast meat contains just slightly more protein at 26.25 grams. Sunflower sprouts and greens are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, D, and E and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. In addition to these vitamins and minerals, sunflower sprouts and greens are a rich source of lecithin which helps break down fatty acids into an easily digestible water soluble form, and chlorophyll which benefits many functions within the body, including building blood supply, revitalizing tissue, and calming inflammation, activating enzymes, and deodorizing the body. But if they are this good for you, they must taste bad? Wrong! Sunflower greens are considered a delicacy among gourmets and are known for a crisp nutty flavor.
So there is no confusion regarding terminology, sunflower sprouts are generally regarded as hulled sunflower seeds that have been soaked and sprouted for a day or so. Sunflower greens are the baby plants that result when unhulled seeds are grown in soil, generally for 7-8 days.
Sunflower greens can be grown indoors, without soil (in jars or trays). However, for highest nutrient value, it is best to grow them in soil, and in natural sunlight. A spot near a sunny kitchen window works well. They can be grown in soil on any shallow tray, but it is best to use the plastic trays used by plant nurseries for growing seedlings because they provide proper drainage. For soil, a premium potting mix is recommended with a hand full of rock dust (including lime), and/or kelp powder added to enhance mineral content. Proper seeds for sprouting and supplies can be found by doing an internet search on “sunflower sprouting”.
Fill trays with one inch of soil, and if using standard 10×21 inch trays, spread one half cup of rock dust on top. Two cups of unhulled seeds can be sprouted in this size tray. Soak the seeds for 8 hours in two quarts of filtered water. Drain seeds and spread them evenly over the prepared soil. Cover with 3 layers of white paper towels and water well with a quart of filtered water. Always keep the paper towel moist. In dryer climates this may require watering twice a day. On the third day, the sprouts will be pushing the paper towel up and it can be removed.
The greens will generally be ready on day 7 or 8 (where soaking of seed is day 1). Be sure to harvest before the 2nd set of leaves emerges, as they get very bitter and unpalatable after that. To harvest, cut the greens from the tray with scissors, and remove any hard hulls that remain on the greens. Sunflower greens will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator and are great on sandwiches and in salads.
John Berends is a horticulture lover and free-lance writer.