Sunflower sprouts: rich in folic acid and B-complex vitamins. You can grow your own health!
Sunflower sprouts are a tasty superfood. These yummy young shoots are an excellent source of chlorophyll and protein, are rich in folic acid and the B-complex vitamins, vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc. They make a nutritious addition to salads and smoothies, and they juice well with cold press juicers. Dense, crunchy, “sunnies” are slightly nutty in flavor with a very mild hint of lemon. They can be grown indoors or outside, although birds and squirrels are attracted to them, so you will want to plan for protection if you choose to grow outdoors. Sunnies are simple to grow. Everyone adds his or her own spin to the growing process, so don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s hard to mess this up!
1. For a 10”x20” growing tray, soak a scant cup of organic, unshelled black oil sunflower seeds for 8 hours or overnight, and then rinse and drain them. Note that whole sunflower seeds float. To get them saturated, it is necessary to keep them completely under water. A wide mouth glass canning jar works well. Place the seeds in the bottom, fill the jar to the top with water and put the two-piece lid on tight, then invert the jar, so the seeds rise to the “bottom” of the jar.
2. Replace the two-piece canning jar lid with a sprouting jar strainer lid and drain off soak water thoroughly. The soak water has nutrients in it and is good for watering houseplants. Rinse seeds thoroughly with cool water and drain again. Set your sprouting jar at a 45-degree angle to drain between rinses—it works well to prop it up in a dish rack. Keep the jar out of direct sunlight and at room temperature between rinses.
3. Rinse twice a day until the seeds start to sprout. You will see a small (1/8”) white root growing out of the sunflower seed shells. This will occur after 2–3 rinse periods; it doesn’t take long.
4. Fill your seed tray about 1” deep with a good quality potting soil or compost. Some growers like to add earthworm castings to the growing medium. If you add earthworm castings, keep the ratio to less than 20% of the tray, or your sprouts may burn. Spread the soil evenly. Empty the jar with the sprouted seeds into the middle of the tray, and gently spread them out. It's fine if the seeds touch, and even if they overlap a little, but try to avoid little seed piles. If later you find any mold or fungus in your greens, reduce the amount of seed you plant. The hotter and more humid your climate is, the greater the potential for mold or fungus to grow.
5. Cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil. Water gently, once or twice a day, and keep out of direct sunlight. Be careful not to overwater, which will make them prone to mold and rot. Under-watering sprouts will stunt their growth.
After 3–4 days, or when they are about an inch tall, move your crop to a well-lit location. If you use direct sunlight at this point, you’ll want to plan to do a little more watering.
6. Your sprouts are ready to harvest when their smooth seed leaves are large and green, and the second leaves have not yet appeared. They will be about 3–5 inches tall. Sunflower greens will shed their shells as their leaves open. Most of the seed husks or shells will have fallen off the sprouts by this point, but you will likely need to remove a few by hand. To remove remaining shells, tip the growing tray at an angle and brush your hand back and forth over the top of the greens.
To harvest the sprouts cut off near the base with sharp, clean knife or scissors, just above the soil’s surface.
7. Enjoy fresh sprouts in your salad or green smoothie. Stored in a produce storage bag in the refrigerator, they keep fresh for 5–7 days, providing they're almost dry, and all the husks have been removed.
Try pairing your sprouts with a simple dressing.