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How to Roast Sunflower Seeds

Updated on October 1, 2012

Grow Your Own Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are easy to grow and roast - seeds roasted without the use of oil or butter will keep for up to a year!
Sunflower seeds are easy to grow and roast - seeds roasted without the use of oil or butter will keep for up to a year! | Source

Sunflower Seeds Benefits

Sunflower seeds contain many antioxidants and nutrients, are low in sugar content, and provide fiber, protein, and healthy fats. What are the health benefits one can gain from eating sunflower seeds?

  • Improved cell repair due to the presence of selenium, which aids in DNA repair for damaged cells.
  • Lowered blood pressure. Sunflower seeds contain magnesium, which is beneficial to muscle function and bone health.
  • Reduced cholesterol, as the phytosterols in the seeds has been proven to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Sunflower seeds have the highest concentration of phytosterols of any nut or seed eaten in the United States.
  • Less inflammation, as the seeds contain a high level of Vitamin E. This may result in improved cardiovascular health and a reduction in arthritis symptoms.

How to Plant Sunflower Seeds

  1. Purchase a packet of sunflower seeds. A good variety for producing large amounts of seeds is the Mammoth Sunflower. This flower produces a massive seed-head and will provide many high-quality seeds at harvest time.
  2. After the date of the last frost, plant the sunflower seed outdoors. Select a location in full sun, and plant the seed 1" - 3" deep in garden soil. Do not plant the sunflower seeds in heavy clay or sand: use compost or soil amendments to improve the quality of the soil. Alternatively, start the seeds indoors using peat pots or homemade seedling pots.
  3. Space the seeds of giant sunflowers about 3' apart. If more than one row is planted, ensure the rows are at least 4' apart. Follow the directions on the back of the seed packet for instructions specific to the variety being planted.
  4. Water the seeds regularly and protect the seedling from garden pests.
  5. When the flower begins to produce mature seeds, it may be necessary to protect the flower from birds. Place loose netting around the sunflower head until all the seeds are mature and the flower is ready for harvest.

Russian Mammoth Sunflower Seeds

Mammoth Russian Sunflower - 30 Seeds, 7g
Mammoth Russian Sunflower - 30 Seeds, 7g

Russian Mammoth sunflowers grow over 10 feet tall and produce a large amount of quality seeds.

 

Sunflower Seed Varieties

There are many sunflower varieties, and not all sunflowers produce edible seeds. Birds prefer the black "oil" sunflower seeds, so choose a variety that produces black and white striped seeds to prevent hungry birds from devouring the entire crop. The following varieties reliably produce a large quantity of edible seeds:

  • Russian Giant will produce seed heads nearly two feet across on flowers over 10 feet tall.
  • Giant Grey Stripe grows 6' - 8' tall and is an heirloom sunflower variety.
  • Paul Bunyan is another tall sunflower that produces edible seeds.
  • Mammoth Russian is one of the oldest cultivars of giant sunflowers: the seeds have been sold for over 130 years.
  • Kong grows up to 12 feet tall and is an impressive addition to the garden.

How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gently remove the blossom ends from the seed head to expose the seeds.Use your finger to pluck out the seeds, or press sideways with your thumbs to force the seeds out of the flower head.Work from the perimeter of the sunflower head in toward the center.Collect the seeds in a bowl.
Gently remove the blossom ends from the seed head to expose the seeds.
Gently remove the blossom ends from the seed head to expose the seeds. | Source
Use your finger to pluck out the seeds, or press sideways with your thumbs to force the seeds out of the flower head.
Use your finger to pluck out the seeds, or press sideways with your thumbs to force the seeds out of the flower head. | Source
Work from the perimeter of the sunflower head in toward the center.
Work from the perimeter of the sunflower head in toward the center. | Source
Collect the seeds in a bowl.
Collect the seeds in a bowl. | Source

Harvesting the Seeds

When are the seeds mature and ready to harvest? The sunflower's petals will turn brown and whither away. The back of the sunflower will often turn brown and the seeds will be plump. Thin shells will not contain a seed inside - the seeds should appear rounded and feel firm when pressed between a thumb and finger. Shells that collapse indicate an immature seed or an empty shell.

Cut the flower head off of the plant and rub off any blossom ends that remain on the seeds. Using your hand and fingers, rub the seeds off the flower head. Start from the outer edge and work in toward the center, loosening seeds as you go. Place the loose seeds into a bowl or colander, removing any immature or empty shells as you go.

Roasting Sunflower Seeds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Add the seeds to 2 quarts of water and add 1/2 cup salt. Allow the seeds to soak overnight.Roast the seeds in an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30-40 minutes.
Add the seeds to 2 quarts of water and add 1/2 cup salt. Allow the seeds to soak overnight.
Add the seeds to 2 quarts of water and add 1/2 cup salt. Allow the seeds to soak overnight. | Source
Roast the seeds in an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30-40 minutes.
Roast the seeds in an oven set to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 30-40 minutes. | Source

Salting and Roasting the Seeds

Once the seeds have been harvested, place the seeds into 2 quarts of water (equivalent to 8 cups of water). Add 1/2 cup of salt to the solution and allow the seeds to soak overnight, or for 8 hours.

When the seeds have finished soaking, drain off the water and place the seeds into a baking dish or roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 300°F (149°C, or Gas Mark 2). Roast the seeds for 30 minutes to 2 hours, until they are golden brown. If the seeds are dry prior to roasting, the shorter time frame will be needed. If the seeds are still wet from soaking, the longer end of the time frame will be required.

Remove from the oven, allow the seeds to cool, and store them in an airtight container. Some recipes call for the use of melted butter on the roasted seeds: take note that this dramatically reduces the shelf life of the roasted seeds and they will have to be eaten quickly if butter is used. If no butter is used in the preparation of the seeds, they have a very long shelf life (up to a year if the seeds are dry roasted and salted, with no oil or butter added).

Dry Roasted Sunflower Seed Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 ounce
Calories 165
Calories from Fat126
% Daily Value *
Fat 14 g22%
Saturated fat 2 g10%
Unsaturated fat 12 g
Carbohydrates 7 g2%
Sugar 1 g
Fiber 3 g12%
Protein 5 g10%
Cholesterol 0 mg
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

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    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      3 years ago from Western New York

      We have "volunteer" sunflowers under our bird feeder every year - they are usually black oil sunflower seeds, so I just let them ripen and let the wild birds have them most of the time. Sometimes I plant sunflowers for us (the one in this article is the "Mammoth" sunflower) and roast the seeds. They are one of my favorite flowers!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub Leah on how to roast sunflower seeds. Congrats on those Editor's Choice hubs, too. I love sunflowers and never had the seeds before. Voted up!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, wizardofodds. It is a great fall activity with kids - they love pulling the seeds out of the flower head. It's a great activity for fine motor skills, too!

    • wizardofodds profile image

      Kayla Brown 

      5 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

      What a fun fall activity and a great healthy snack! Thanks for sharing!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      They are so delicious, meloncauli! This sunflower was a Mother's Day gift from my youngest son's Pre-K class last May. It grew to over 11' in height! We managed to get a lot of sunflower seeds from just one flower - it was a fun summer project.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, krsharp! They're really easy to roast, and the seeds are such a good snack. The hardest part of the entire process is plucking the seeds from the flower head. I would just press my thumbs around and pop them off in wide swaths.

    • meloncauli profile image

      meloncauli 

      5 years ago from UK

      I love sunflower seeds! All of my four children started growing sunflower seeds when they were toddlers. Great hub Leah! Voted up and shared.

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 

      5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      Sunflower seeds are a staple in our household and you can find sunflowers just about everywhere in Kansas! Now that I know how to roast them, I will have some happy campers here. Fantastic idea Leah! Especially this time of year. Useful, Awesome & Up -K

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      My husband was a little disappointed that they weren't completely saturated in salt. They are pleasantly salty, but not as concentrated as the pre-packaged variety in the stores. You can always increase (or decrease) the amount of salt by changing the amount in the soaking step. If you want no salt, then you don't need to soak at all and can proceed directly to roasting. Thanks for the comment, lindacee!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      Sunflower (and pumpkin) seeds are a favorite snack of mine. So nice to be able to control the amount of salt by roasting them yourself. Thanks for the thorough and easy-to-follow tutorial, Leah!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      It is a great project, Hyphenbird! It takes a while to strip all the seeds from the flower heads. My boys like to help with this project, and it is a great way to work on fine motor skills for younger kids.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is a great idea and fun also. We have lots of sunflowers around here that have just gone dark. Thank you. This can be a weekend outdoor project for me and my boy!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Lipnancy, I love pumpkin seeds, too. We have a large supply of sunflower seeds from our recent harvest, but I can't wait to roast some pumpkin seeds, too. They are a wonderful, healthy snack!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Om! I love sunflower seeds for the taste, but also for the health benefits!

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 

      5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I have tried to roast pumpkin seeds but never attempted sunflower seeds. Voted Up and Shared.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      5 years ago

      Wow, this hub actually teaches us a lot more than how to roast sunflower seeds! I really appreciate all this interesting info. Thumbs up, Leah!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Randomcreative and Emma - they are so delicious! If you roast them at home, they are all natural and have no preservatives or unhealthy additives. Some people add garlic salt, cayenne pepper, and other ingredients to make spicy sunflower seeds!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      5 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      I have eaten sunflower seeds, but never thought about roasting them myself.

      Great hub - up and interesting!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I cannot believe that I've never roasted my own sunflower seeds. I will have to give it a try sometime. Thanks for all of the great information and details!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      I love them, too, teaches12345! We usually keep them on hand for a healthy snack. The homemade version are not as intensely salty as the store-bought version - though the recipe could be tweaked to add more salt if desired (adding a full cup instead of half a cup).

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      One of my favorite treats is sunflower seeds: salted lightly and with a bit of herb seasonings. I may try roasing them myself some day, now that I have your instructions. Thanks!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      They are so easy to grow, Carol7777. I plant at least one (usually more) every year because the flowers are so gorgeous in the garden. The free seeds are a huge bonus!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      I love sunflower seeds and now happy to know how healthful they are. Thanks for all the good information.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      They are SO good, CassyLu! I am snacking on some right now. We only grew one sunflower this year and have a TON of seeds!

    • CassyLu1981 profile image

      CassyLu1981 

      5 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      YUM! I've always wondered how to do this, now I know ;) Thanks!!! Voted up, shared and pinned!

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