Growing, harvesting and processing Sunflower seeds for food.

Now I don’t know about you, but I love Sunflower seeds for eating as a snack. Just because TEOTWAWKI comes, it doesn’t mean that you will have to give up on all of your snacks completely.  They are loaded with vitamins and minerals making it healthy but also a very tasty snack to boot. Sunflowers are easy to grow and can be grown in almost all parts of the lower 48 states and is a wonderful addition to any garden. Growing, harvesting and processing Sunflower seeds for food is going to be the subject of today’s post so let’s get started.

Sunflowers grow best with a soil PH of 6.0 to 7.5 and are very drought tolerant, once they are established. While these plants like sandy soil, they will grow well in just about any type.  Do not plant them close to your bean plants however because they do produce a chemical that inhibits bean growth.  You will want to plant them either in an area just for the sunflowers or on the opposite side of your garden from your beans. Although sunflowers can be started indoors in individual peat pots, it is easiest to sow seeds directly into the soil after all danger of spring frost is past.  Plant them in shallow rows about 6 inches apart and about 1 to 2 inches deep. Once they sprout and the leaves appear. you can thin the plants to about 2 feet apart. The plants, depending on the verity that you choose, will mature in about 80 to 120 days. Because you are growing them for their seeds, you will want to get the variety with the largest head that you can,  as they will produce the most seeds and the largest seeds as well.

Once the sunflowers have matured and are at the end of their season, cut the heads from the stalks with a sharp knife just behind the head.  You can tell when they are at the end of their season when the seeds start to get loose.  After you have removed the head, you will need to shake it or  wipe it to remove any bugs that might be on it. Next you will want to set down at a table with a large bowl and begin the task of removing the seeds.  Take a few seeds from each head and place them in a plastic bag and save them for planting the next year.  If you find one with a worm in it, just throw that seed away as this is very common. The rest of the seeds will still be good. Once you have all of the seeds removed then place them in a 5 gallon bucket and add enough water to completely cover them. You will want to keep track of how much water you add to the bucket so you will know how much salt to add next. You will add 1 cup of salt for every 1 gallon of water you added to the bucket. Once this is done, stir the bucket for a few minutes to dissolve the salt and let any trash or dirt float to the top. Remove any trash that you see, and then place a glass lid of a large pot  in the top of the bucket to hold the seeds under the water and let them soak for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, drain the bucket and spread out the seeds to begin drying. Once they are mostly dried place them in a large metal pot.(I prefer to use a cast-iron pot myself.)  You will then want to place them in an oven on low heat for about two and a half to three and a half hours depending on the size of the pan and how hot the oven is. You will then want to stir them about every 20 to 30 minutes during this time to be sure that they are  evenly roasted throughout.  If you do not have access to an oven, you could put them in a large cast iron pot or Dutch oven but will need to cover them to trap heat inside.  You could also use an earthen oven.  Once this is complete, let them cool to room temperature before placing them in a sealed container for storage.  Many people who do this prefer to use a brand of salt called “Real Salt” which is pure unbleached salt just as it comes from the ground. The say it gives the seeds a much better flavor and contains more vitamins and minerals than processed salt. Regardless of what salt you use, you are sure to enjoy them. The seeds can also be cracked and removed from their shells and used in bread to add additional flavor. You can also press the seeds to remove the oil from them, but if you are going to do this then I recommend that you do not roast them as it will reduce the amount of oil you get from each seed.  It takes a lot of seeds to make a little sunflower seed oil.

Today’s post is short I know, but I wanted to cover this subject any way. After TEOTWAWKI hits and you are trying to survive, you will want to grow everything you can for food and snacks. These will make a great treat for you and your kids so enjoy and until next time, keep on prepping!

-The Sargent –

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