It’s a bad time to be a seed-spitter. Sunflower seeds have long been my constant companion. Whether making a run to the store, or working in the woods or field, sunflower seeds have always provided a nice, salty (or spicy, depending on seasoning!) distraction to keep me occupied. Alas, I’ve noticed a sharp uptick in prices as of late, that’s driving my habit into newly costly heights. As it turns out, Ukraine produces a full quarter of world sunflower seeds–far more than any other individual country–and the ongoing conflict has sent prices skyrocketing. As such, I’ve decided its high time to start roasting my own seeds, an added bonus being that I may be able to invent some brand new flavors for myself.
First, of course, you need to harvest the sunflower seeds. Russian Mammoth or American Giant sunflowers tend to produce the seed sizes you’ll need for in-shell seeds. Do this on a nice, sunny, dry day, as harvesting seeds from wet flowers is far more of a chore. Next, cut off the sunflower heads and bring them back to your house in a bucket. I say this specifically as, some seeds may drop out on the way, and you don’t want to lose them! If they’re not yet fully dry, hang them somewhere with good circulation until they are–generally a couple weeks.
After this is done, you can remove the seeds by rubbing two dried sunflower heads together, rubbing it on an old screen, or simply picking each out by hand. All these methods, of course, should be accomplished over a bucket.
At this point, since we are going to be roasting our seeds anyway, instead of saving them to plant, drying is a wholly optional step. Roasting, after all, will accomplish this for us. However, if you’d like to dry them, you have a couple options. Some folks simply spread them out on a screen, turning them every few days to ensure drying consistency. Others will stick them in a dehydrator for a few hours. Either method will get them dry, and the folks that do it, swear by it, as they claim it fosters a crispier seed.
Love a super-salty nut? You can boil them in salt water before you roast them. Drop the seeds in for about 20 minutes, to ensure good salt saturation. I know this sounds counter-intuitive if you’ve just spent time drying your seeds, but trust me, you can never go wrong with a little extra salt.
After boiling, drain the seeds in a colander to get rid of any and all excess water. While this is happening, preheat your oven to 400-degrees and prepare a baking sheet with your favored seasonings spread on it. I prefer cracked black peppercorns, and ALOT of it. When the oven hits temperature, spread your seeds in one layer on the sheet, stick them in, and set your timer for 10 minutes. Roasting seeds is an easy thing to overshoot, so once you hit 10 minutes, check them every 2. When they seem about as dry as you tend to like them (generally around 14 minutes), let the oven run for just about another minute before pulling them out and letting them cool. If the seeds turn brown, you’ve gone too far.
After the seeds have cooled, store them in an airtight container you can easily hide from yourself, so you don’t tear through half your harvest in a week (don’t ask how I know). Happy fall yall!
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”