In the spirit of Christmas I am writing this article on the vivacious and marvelous sunflower, which in my opinion is one of nature's most precious gifts.
I am thankful for its sunny characteristic that consistently brings a smile to my face and fills my spirit with joy. How can one not be fascinated by this unique flower that continuously seeks out the sun. It reminds me of how we should live...by always seeking the sunny side of life.
The sunflower, Helianthus Annus, originated in the American southwest and was eventually brought to Europe and other parts of the world to cultivate. This amazing plant is used not only in the cut flower industry but also for its oil and seeds. The sunflower head is actually a composite of hundreds of tiny flowers which mature into fruits which are what we know as the "seeds." The outer covering of the "seed" is inedible and the inner part is the true seed which we can eat.
Sunflower seeds contribute a wealth of nutrition to us in the form of essential fatty acids (the good fats), vitamin E, protein, fiber, phytochemicals, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, zinc, folate, and iron. These little guys are great for boosting the immune system due to their high content of antioxidants.
Can you believe these tiny little things give us so much? Seeds are truly the spark of life giving us everything we need for vitality, so it is important to incorporate more of them in our diets.
Some ideas on how to incorporate these nutritional powerhouses in your diet include simply snacking on them (in small amounts as they are concentrated in fats), tossing them on salads or in cereals, adding them to stir-fry or grain dishes, and incorporating them into granola or trail mixes.
You can experiment with them and substitute sunflower seeds for other ingredients such as pine nuts in pesto. Here is a simple homemade granola bar recipe that you can make for your family or give away for holiday gifts this season:
Homemade Granola Bars - makes about 5 or 6 bars
1/4 cup raw honey, agave or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats (not quick!)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
pinch of ground cinnamon - or more to taste
In a sauce pan over low temp heat honey with peanut butter until blended. Remove from heat and add vanilla. In a separate bowl combine rolled oats, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and a pinch of cinnamon. Add the warm wet mix to the dry and stir evenly.
Lightly spray a loaf pan with cooking spry and press the mix evenly in it. Let dry and cut into bars. Simple, healthy, and quick! You can be creative with this recipe and add other ingredients as you like.
So now that your ready to go out and buy sunflower seeds let me add a quick note on how to buy and store them because they can go rancid quite quickly. Purchase raw hulled sunflower seeds from stores with high turnover. Store them in a dark glass bottle in the fridge.
You can sprout the seeds and then roast/cook them for easier digestion. Lightly roasting the seeds can reduce the effects of rancidity. Other than that, go ahead and enjoy nature's gift to us. Happy Holidays!!!
This blog is an exploration of life, love, adventure and art primarily through the medium of food.