There are sunflowers that are bred for their flowers, and those that are bred for their edible seeds. So what kind of sunflowers produce edible seeds?
What You'll Learn Today
Are All Sunflower Seeds Edible?
All sunflower seeds are edible. There is no part of this plant that is poisonous, so you can munch away quite happily!
You can actually eat all the other parts of a sunflower plant, from the leaves to the petals to the stems – although these are not always very palatable.
The seeds, however, are always edible, no matter which cultivar they come from. Some may be better than others though!
Many sunflowers produce tiny seeds that are very hard to extract from their shells, while others give bigger seeds which are easier to get out.
- There are some sunflowers whose seeds are smaller and more fiddly – for example, the ornamental types will be harder to extract seeds from.
- The taller species of sunflower, those that are used for beautiful blooms and impressive height, are better for seeds.
- The black and white striped sunflower seeds, the ones that we generally recognise as sunflower seeds, are the best for eating.
- Black sunflower seeds are generally produced for bird feed, and as such they may not be as palatable.
Can You Eat Sunflower Seeds From Any Sunflower?
There are different kinds of sunflowers for height, blooms, seeds – the ones that produce the most edible seeds are the ones that we are looking at here.
Any sunflower will produce sunflower seeds, and you can eat the seeds from any one of them.
However, it is much easier to eat seeds from a sunflower which is bred for its edible seeds than one which is bred for its blooms.
Some sunflower seeds, such as the Oilseed sunflower seeds, can turn rancid quite quickly, and can cause a tummy upset.
It is advised to eat any sunflower seed quickly, before it goes over, to ensure that you don’t experience any gastrointestinal issues.
But, you don’t have to be concerned if you accidentally eat a seed from a sunflower that is not bred specifically for its seeds – it will not do you any harm.
Which Sunflowers Have Edible Seeds?
The taller sunflowers are, generally, the best ones for producing lots of edible seeds – however, every sunflower produces seeds that can be eaten.
There are a few sunflowers which produce the best seeds for eating, so without further ado, here is a list of them so you know which ones to plant:
- Giganteus – This sunflower grows to at least 12 feet tall, and produces flower heads of a foot across or more.
- Sunzilla – Grows to over 16 feet tall, and produces delicious seeds.
- Titan – This is a gorgeous sunflower, which produces seed heads of up to a whopping 2 feet in width.
- Mammoth Grey Stripe – A beautiful flower, that grows up to 12 feet tall and whose seed heads can reach a foot wide.
- Kong Hybrid – Another tall one, that can grow up to 14 feet tall.
- Royal Hybrid – This is a smaller plant, which “only” reaches 7 feet tall, but which has a high seed productivity.
How To Harvest Sunflower Seeds?
When you have chosen your sunflower variety, enjoyed the tall plants and the beautiful blooms, it is time to harvest the seeds.
- Wait until the flowers have completely finished, and the seed heads have dropped all the petals as well as the green coverings over the seeds.
- When the heads start to droop, you can snip them off, with a bit of stem left attached so you can hang them.
- Hang the heads upside down, with a bag around the heads to catch any falling seeds.
- Leave them hanging for a couple of weeks, until the heads are completely dry.
- You should be able to easily scrape the seeds from the heads, then use these in any way you want.
- You can crack off the shells individually, roast them, or gently roll them to remove the husks, then munch them as you like!
Which Sunflowers Produce The Most Seeds?
Once you have figured out the best sunflowers for seeds, then you can join the ranks of people who are making their own sunflower seed snacks.
Many sunflowers are grown for their seed production, rather than the beauty of their blooms.
Sunflowers, as a general rule, can produce anywhere from 1000 to 2000 seeds per head – that’s a lot of sunflower seeds to harvest and enjoy!
- One of these big seed producers is the Mongolian Giant, whose seeds can grow to over an inch long. Much easier to remove the shells than from the fiddly, little ones!
- The Mammoth Russian is another hefty type of sunflower; its seed head can measure up to a foot across.
- If you are looking for the best flavoured seeds, go for the Super Snack Mix – the name says it all, really!
- Royal Hybrid is another strong contender; it has super prolific seeds that can keep you in your favourite snack for months after harvesting.
How To Prepare Sunflower Seeds For Eating?
Sunflower seeds are a delicious, healthy snack, and one that can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways.
The first thing you will need to do is to remove the shells from your sunflower seeds – these are tough and chewy and do not make nice eating.
You can painstakingly remove the shells yourself by hand, but be warned this is a long and tricky business, and can break a lot of fingernails!
A better idea is to roast the seeds – simply place them into a preheated oven and roast them for 5 minutes.
The seeds should pop out of the shells really easily once they have had a bit of a roast in the oven.
Another way to remove the shells is even more simple:
- Place half a cup of seeds into a plastic bag, and roll them with a rolling pin, very gently.
- Empty out the bag into a bowl of water – the shells will float to the top and the seeds will sink to the bottom.
- Drain off the water, and repeat with your remaining seeds.
- You can now eat the seeds as they are, or roast them with oil and a little salt.
Sunflower butter, a great alternative to peanut butter for those who are allergic or who simply don’t like the peanut version, is quick and easy to make:
- Place 2 1/4 cups of shelled, roasted sunflower seeds into a blender, along with 1tsp salt and a tbsp sugar or your chosen sweetener.
- Blend for 5 minutes, pausing every now and then to scrape the mixture from the sides of the blender.
- Increase the blender speed to high, and blend for around 5 minutes, by which time the butter should be smooth and creamy.
- Enjoy this spread on toast, or in a sandwich, or as part of a salad dressing, or a dip for vegetables.
- It will store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Great for allergies!
Here is a video on how to make your own sunflower seed butter!
Good luck, and enjoy your sunflower seed journey!