Flower Power

Sunflower seeds provide tasty, crunchy nutrition in a very compact package.

By Lisa James

October 2009


There are few garden plants more impressive than the stately sunflower, with its enormous, yellow-petalled blossoms cheerfully greeting passersby from atop towering stalks.

As it turns out, the sunflower’s seeds are just as impressive for the nutrients they provide. An ounce of kernels supplies significant amounts of copper, fiber, folate, pantothenic acid, protein, selenium, vitamins B6 and E, and zinc, in addition to iron, magnesium, thiamin and niacin. The fat they contain is mostly of the beneficial unsaturated kind. What’s more, sunflower seeds are a good source of phytosterols, plant chemicals that have been found to support healthy cholesterol levels.

Sunflowers were first cultivated roughly 5,000 years ago by Native American tribes in what is now the southwestern US. The seeds were ground into meal for use in baked goods and in vegetable dishes featuring beans and corn. The seeds were also eaten out of hand as a snack and pressed into oil—two of the most common usages today. This explains the presence of two separate seed varieties, the small, black oilseed and the larger, striped “confectionery” kind.

Sunflower seeds are a versatile resource for the health-conscious cook. They lend a mildly nutty flavor to salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, stir-frys, trail mixes and breakfast cereals (such as the granola recipe below). Sunflower oil’s high smoke point makes it a good choice for frying, and its light taste and appearance allows the flavor of other foods to come through cleanly.

Sunflower seeds make great snacks. But don’t forget to put the power of the sunflower—both seeds and oil—to work in your kitchen.

ET Recipes

Good Day Granola

8 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups firmly packed
brown sugar
1 1/2 cups unprocessed bran
1 1/2 cups natural wheat germ (not toasted or honeyed)
3/4 cup roasted sunflower
kernels, unsalted
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup dried mixed fruit, chopped

1. Place oats, brown sugar, bran, wheat germ and sunflower kernels in a large bowl; stir. Place sunflower oil, honey and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring until bubbly. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

2. Divide oat mixture evenly and spread on two rimmed cookie sheets. Bake in a preheated oven at 325° degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring once to keep granola evenly browned. When completely cool, add raisins, coconut and dried fruit.

Yields 18 cups. Analysis per cup: 160 calories, 3.6g protein, 4.75g fat (0.8g saturated),
2.5g fiber, 27.4g carbohydrate

Source: National Sunflower Association (www.sunflowernsa.com)

 


Greek Stuffed Peppers

1 ½ cup vegetable broth
1 cup whole wheat couscous
4 red, yellow or green peppers
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp sunflower oil
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
½ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped black olives
2 cups chopped watercress or flat-leaf parsley
½ cup finely crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup toasted sunflower kernels

1. Heat broth to boiling in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and leave uncovered to cool. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°.

2. Fill a large pot half-full of water and bring to a boil. Cut tops from peppers, remove seeds and membranes, and then place the peppers into the water. Cook, covered, for 4-5 minutes, until just tender. Coat 4 custard cups with oil and stand a pepper upright in each. (Sprinkle inside of peppers with salt, if desired.)

3. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, water, oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and oregano; mix well. Pour over couscous and stir in along with the onion, olives, watercress, feta and sunflower kernels.

4. Fill peppers, packing lightly. Place custard cups in an 8” or 9” cake pan and bake about 15 minutes or until heated through. Just before serving, quickly reheat remaining couscous. On individual serving dishes or on one platter, place the baked peppers on a bed of couscous.

Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 400 calories, 14g protein, 14.6g fat (3.8g saturated),
10g fiber, 58g carbohydrate, 767 mg sodium

Source: National Sunflower Association (www.sunflowernsa.com)

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