There is no other more cheerful flower than a sunflower. Large solitary blossoms, encircled by yellow-orange petal-rays, reaching a meter / 3 feet in diameter. The central disk is usually yellowish-brown but it also can be purple, depending on the variety. The sunflower is actually a flower head consisting of numerous other florets populated together, up to 2’000! The most curious feature of the sunflower is its heliotropism, i.e. the motion of the flower’s head in response to the direction of the sun. If you place a camera in front of the field full of sunflowers and then fast-forward the record, you’ll get that fascinating video of flowers’ heads following after the sun moving across the skies. Folks on TV love that trick, and so do we.
But enough with the botany, let’s get to the edible seeds. Sunflowers were recognized as a valuable crop in the 16th century, grown all over Europe, but it was Peter I of Russia who commercialized their production. Today some varieties are grown for oil production and others to produce edible seeds. Which can be eaten raw, roasted, dried, or even ground. The latter is typically called sunflower seed flour and it’s usually used in vegan baking. If you can’t find this ingredient in your nearest supermarket, don’t be upset, you can easily make it yourself. Take 220 g / 1 ½ cup of seeds and briefly pulse them in a food processor until you get a fine powder. Try not to overbeat the seeds, because then you’ll end up with sunflower seed butter. Now with your own ‘sun-flour’, mild and nutty, nutritious and flavorful, you can easily substitute it for pricey almond flour, add to the list of alternative baking flours mixtures, or use it in crumble aka streusel topping.
Or, as many people call it, a crunch. A crunch is all about texture, a perfect add-on to morning yoghurts or midday soups. You can make it sweet (and that’s what most of us would expect of it) or savoury with lots of spices like chili, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin, etc. Try to make your crunch with just a few ingredients – take ¼ cup of sunflower seeds, 2 Tbsp of sesame seeds and mix them with 1 tsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of honey, and a pinch of salt. Toss well, place on a tray lined with parchment paper and let them crisp for 7 minutes in a 200˚C / 400˚F oven. Let the crunch cool a little – it will firm up and become the way we intended it to be: brittle and crunchy. Eat as a snack, top your pureed pumpkin soup or add straight into a vegetable salad.