Ode to the Sunflower

Image: anat_tikker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I think sunflowers are such beautiful flowers. Their bright, cheery coloring makes any room automatically much more cheerful. Something about those yellow blossoms simply exudes happiness.
But as much as I love the flower, what I truly love about sunflowers are their seeds. They're yummy, nutritious, and healthy.

Yes, no matter whether you follow a standard run of the mill, "by the books" healthy diet, or follow a traditional foods diet, everyone agrees that sunflower seeds are healthy for you.
Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein, in addition to vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

The American Heart Association mentions how sunflower seeds and sunflower oil are great for you as they lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol.
If you eschew the AHA's findings but are more pro a traditional foods diet, a la Weston Price and Nourishing Traditions, you'd note how difficult it is to find an oil that is liquid at room temperature, but is fine for cooking, and is frugal, or at least relatively so. Canola and soy and corn oil are all out of the picture because of being GMO's and prepared in a process that is very unhealthy, leaving you with olive oil, peanut oil, nut oils, and sunflower oil. Of those, I can only find sunflower oil cheaply, so that ends up being the oil of choice in our home. (Canola and soybean oils never enter our home.)

But forget the health aspect- I love sunflower seeds for a bajjilion other reasons. But the two main ones are- they're versatile. Incredibly so. And in comparison to other "nuts", they're very frugal.

Where I live, bulk bought almonds cost $4.50 per pound. Walnuts are nearly 6 dollars per pound. Pine nuts are $25 per pound! All other nuts and seeds fall somewhere between those two.
Except sunflower seeds. Bulk purchased, I was able to get them for $2.20 per pound. Even not bulk bought, those are the cheapest "nut" out there.
Sunflower seeds, even though not officially a nut, are my go-to nut for pretty much every recipe that calls for nuts.

Sunflower seeds have a pretty mild taste, and I've successfully subbed them for nuts in pretty much every recipe I've tried. (I only didn't have success with a raw fermented "nut cheese", but I don't know if I can fault the sunflower seeds, a mistake I made in the fermentation process, or because fermented nut cheeses just taste icky as my friend had warned me.)

Oh Sunflower Seed, How Do I Use Thee?

Cookies, Cakes, Granola, Etc. If there's a recipe that calls for the addition of some walnuts or other nuts to give it some body and crunch, I use sunflower seeds to give it that same crunch more frugally.

Salads. Many salads call for slivered almonds or pine nuts or whatever. What do I use instead successfully? Sunflower seeds!

Flour substitute. Almond meal is a common gluten free/wheat free flour alternative, used in all sorts of recipes. I've successfully subbed sunflower meal (ground sunflower seeds) in all of these recipes calling for almond meal, including cakes and cookies, etc.

Larabars and other nut based dishes. Larabars are chemical, gluten, and processed sugar free energy bars, usually made with almonds or some other type of nut, and bound together by date paste. You can make larabars and other energy bars that call for ground nuts with ground almonds instead.

Vegan cheese sauce. Lots of vegan cheese sauces call for cashews or almonds in the recipe. I've had only success using sunflower seeds in their place.

Bread crumb substitute. Ground up and mixed with potato starch, as in my shnitzel recipe, I use coarsely ground sunflowers with potato starch as my standard "breading" for any recipe that calls for a bread crumb coating or topping or filler, from casseroles to eggplant parmesian.

Sunflower milk. Nut milks, specifically almond milk and hazelnut milk, are two common vegan milk substitutes. They're also dreadfully expensive. I make my own nut milk with sunflower seeds and it tastes terrific, and its much more frugal than the alternative! (I plan on sharing this recipe soon.)

Nut butter. Instead of peanut butter, almond butter, or walnut butter, try making sunflower butter. Sunbutter is a commercial brand of this, and its used as a replacement for peanut butter for those with peanut allergies. You can make it yourself just by grinding sunflower seeds in the food processor until you get a smooth paste. I don't really have a food processor, just a grinding attachment to my blender stick, which doesn't work as well as a real food processor, but if you have a food processor, you can easily make this yourself at home with just sunflower seeds and a bit of salt.

Sunflower seeds, sunflower seeds, how I adore thee. Thank you for making it easier to be gluten free frugally. Or at least more frugal than it would be otherwise.

Note- as seeds, sunflower seeds do contain phytic acid, and the Weston Price foundation and Nourishing Traditions suggest soaking and dehydrating these nuts to minimize phytic acid content. I honestly haven't done it yet, I've been too lazy, but just felt the need to throw that out there.

Do you ever use sunflower seeds? How do you use them and in what types of recipes? How much do you pay for hulled sunflower seeds where you live, and how does that compare to the price of other nuts and seeds locally? Do you think you'd try out any of these ideas listed above?

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Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Great ideas, I've just got a 3 kg bag of organic sunflower seeds for £9 or approx. £1.50 per 1lb which is considerably cheaper than most nuts. I'm looking forward to making lots of sunflower pesto, sunflower seed wholewheat bread, sunflower milk, sunbutter and sunburgers in the months ahead!

  2. Do you think grinding whole sunflowers into meal would be safe?

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