Sunflower Seeds, Sprouts, and Houses

Mammoth sunflowers, and they really are, grace our garden every year.  In the fall, we save some seeds for planting, some for the winter birds, and the rest go to the goldfinches, who perch on the giant flower heads, perfectly camouflaged, and eat their fill.

Sunflower sprouts

Each spring, plump little sunflower sprouts pop up everywhere.  We’ve always pulled and tossed them to prepare our garden for planting, but I learned recently that we could be tossing those succulent sprouts into a smoothie, a wrap, or a salad for a tasty and nutritious treat.  I laugh out loud at myself (with myself).  “Well, for crying out loud,” my grandmother would have said, with a soft chuckle and a sparkle.

In a month or so, when our garden comes to life, I will be trying these.  If you want to grow your own, see these tips for sprouting sunflower seeds.  Update, July 2011:  I have tried these sprouts, now, and they are bitter tasting, like coffee or cacao.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seed kernels are also quite healthy.  One ounce of seed kernels, a palm-full, has 37% of the daily value of vitamin E, an important anti-oxidant.  These seeds are high in pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, B6, and in minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.  Sunflower seeds are especially high in phosphorus, copper, manganese, and selenium.

Sunflower seed kernels have a glycemic load of zero, so they are great for maintaining stable blood sugar levels.  They are also a good source of plant protein, although the protein profile has incomplete lysine.  (Lysine is the limiting amino acid.)  The seed kernels are mildly inflammatory, so eat them in moderation.  A little goes a long way.

Sunflower houses

We don’t plant our sunflowers in straight rows.  Instead, we grow a sunflower house, an idea from a picture book called Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting. When Emma was 4 years old, after reading this book, we planted a large rectangle of mammoth sunflowers, leaving a space for a door.   Inside, we placed a small chair, a gift from a gardening friend.  (Thank you, Ruthie!)  Emma was delighted, and now at seven, she still wants to plant her sunflower house each Spring, so she has a place to play while mommy pulls (eats) the weeds.

In the wintertime, our sunflower seeds fill Emma’s brightly painted birdhouses. They hang in a row along a wooden fence sheltered by arborvitae trees, just outside our kitchen window.   Hardy juncos, finches, sparrows, and cardinals flit about the buffet at “bird house row” on cold, snowy days.  Acrobatic squirrels also visit, and they’ve made some adjustments, enlarging the doorways to fit their expanding girth, but we don’t mind.  We sit in our cozy kitchen in our PJs, watching them while we eat breakfast or a lazy Sunday brunch.

Two other related children’s picture books that we love: Sunflower Sal and The Garden of Happiness.

© Copyright 2011, Ciel Bleu Media, healthiveg.com.  All rights reserved.  

Disclaimer—The articles here are not intended as medical, nutritional, or other professional advice.  The ideas presented are my own, unless otherwise noted, and are for informational purposes only.  Please use this information with discretion.

 

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12 Responses to Sunflower Seeds, Sprouts, and Houses

  1. Janet says:

    Loved reading this. The sunflower house sounds like the perfect substitute for the “spare blanket closeline tent” from our backyard… I am sure that it will be a special memory for Emma and I hope that one of our visits coincides with a good time to visit the sunflower house. Wonder if she would like to play Racko inside? 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Loved those clothes-line tents! Yes, please come and visit us at our sunflower house, and bring the Racko. 😉

  2. Carrie says:

    Laura, this is a breath of fresh air on another snowy day in NW PA. We attempted large sunflowers last year in our garden with no luck, but your sunflower house idea planted a seed here and may have solved a fencing issue we have around our potato garden…thanks!

  3. Stacie says:

    I am teaching my twins to garden and am starting with sunflowers for the ease of growing. Love the idea of a house – as I suspect, the girls will plant the seeds where they will instead of where I “will”! Great idea!

  4. Beautiful photos, I absolutely love sunflowers. I live in MA and I can’t wait to see them again- finally getting rid of this snow! 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Thank you, Taylor! Spring is really holding out this year, isn’t it. At least we can start planning our gardens. 🙂

  5. Jennifer says:

    Fascinating! Sunflowers really are a beautiful gift.

  6. Sunflowers are the best! I love your post and how you share nature with children. The fate of the world depends on us all doing just that. Very nicely done!

    • Laura says:

      Joseph, thank you so much! Children are born naturalists, aren’t they? Emma is one of my greatest teachers. She’s the one who brought me back to playing in the dirt. 🙂

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