Did you know that almost the entire sunflower plant is edible? I didn't!
According to Jill MacKenzie, Native Americans cultivated sunflowers for centuries before Europeans arrived. You can eat almost the entire sunflower plant and enjoy this nutritious food in all its stages of life. Grow many sunflowers in a patch so you can eat the various edible parts of the plants all summer long while still enjoying the remaining blooms.
Eat the leaves of older plants by themselves or in a salad. You can also eat sunflower leaves cooked in a stir-fry or boiled like greens and seasoned with a light dressing. Combine and saute them with fresh kale or chard. Be sure to remove the tough center ribs of leaves before cooking.
Harvest the buds before they open. The buds taste similar to artichokes. Pull off the bitter green around the base of the bud. Steam or boil them in water for a few moments and serve with butter.
Pluck the bright yellow petals once the flower has blossomed. Tear off the edge of the sunflower petal since it is bitter and not suited for eating. Combine the colorful petals with other ingredients to complement and tone down the flavor. Use these petals in a salad to add a distinctly bittersweet flavor.
Cut and peel the crunchy young sunflower stalks to eat as bite-sized snacks or to toss into salads. They taste similar to celery. Choose immature sunflowers that have pliable, tender stalks. Like asparagus, avoid the older plants with woody stalks.
Harvest the flower heads when the green disc at the back turns yellow. Place the flower heads in a dry, well-ventilated place and allow the seeds to mature. You may eat or store the seeds once the disc on the back of the flower head has turned dark brown. Remove seeds by rubbing two heads together or by rubbing the head with the palm of your hand. Eat sunflower seeds raw or after they've been toasted at 350 degrees (F) for 10 minutes or until the hulls begin to crack open. Cool them and add salt for taste.
Thank you to Kate Young for sharing her incredible photography with me!