Thursday, September 30, 2021

Grill Those Sunflowers!

Wait, what?  Grill the sunflowers?  Are you crazy?

Why yes, yes I am, that should be pretty well established by now but that is aside the point.  Sunflowers are most definitely edible.  What do you eat when you go to a baseball game?  Okay okay, forget the footlong hotdogs, beer, lemonade, and space ice cream.  What do you eat after all of that?  Sunflower seeds of course!  What magical plant produces these sunflower seeds?  A sunflower, tada!

Sunflower Person
The sunflower person

This blew my mind as well about a year ago and it came to be from watching a video that Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds posted about grilling sunflower heads.  They just happen to be my go to operation for seeds and are a well respected source of information as well as fantastic seeds.  It had never even crossed my mind that you could eat the sunflower heads in your garden.  Those of us in the western world are so used to having everything prepared and done for us that we rarely stop to think where things come from or what possibilities may lie outside of our extremely limited realm of what is presented to us as possible.  If there had been a camera on my face when I first watched that video you would have seen my eyes get really big, my jaw drop to the floor while my eyes veered to a corner of the ceiling as you watched the dots connect in my mind:  sunflowers...sunflower seeds...are sunflowers actually edible...the seeds are obviously edible...perhaps more of the plant is as does the sunflower head actually taste...holy cow, this is absolutely blowing my mind.  I love having that AHA moment that you seem to have less and less of the older you get making it all that much more welcome when it does happen.

The sunflower heads are actually edible, I wouldn't recommend eating the green part that is attached to the actual sunflower head, I'm still not clear on the edibilityness of that part but I'll probably nibble on it in the future and see how it tastes.  My guess is it won't be palatable and thus you'll likely prefer to stay the hell away from it and that specific part may not be edible.

There are a few tricks to grilling up your sunflowers, which I'm still working on confirming and fine tuning.  Hopefully next year I'll have a much better handle on proper sunflower picking and grilling etiquette for maximum pleasure and the best culinary experience.

First off, the sunflowers being referred to in this article are the Mongolian Giant Sunflowers.  Most likely the same principles apply to all the other sunflower varieties as well.  The small sunflowers of other varieties could probably be cooked up as some delicious Hors d'oeuvres and the cooking times will likely differ from the giants.  

Pick 'Em Early - The sweet spot for the Mongolian sunflowers (for grilling) appears to be to harvest them the second they tip over and make like a street light.  If you haven't grown these sunflowers before you're likely very confused but it'll make perfect sense once you grow them.  The sunflower heads literally tip over and look like a street light.  That seems to be the opportune time to harvest them for eating.  At that point the seeds are forming but they're still fairly tender.  The longer the sunflower seeds are left to grow they get harder and woodier, which is not great for this form of eating.  This year I harvested the sunflowers about two weeks after they had tipped over and they were edible but they had gotten woody and weren't the most enjoyable. Harvest them right when they tip over, or perhaps right before and see how it is.

Slather in Olive Oil - After they've been harvested and you're ready to grill them, put a very generous amount of olive oil on them.

Grill ' Em Up - After coating in olive oil, throw them on the grill, I had the grill set for 325 F (162 C) and I left them on for about 15 minutes.  You can poke the sides of them to gauge the tenderness or take a nibble to see where they are at until you get it down further.

Eat 'Em Up - Eat as is or put some homemade and freshly made tomato sauce on them and eat them just like a burger!  Salt and pepper may be in order.  The taste of these will be unexpected and will blow your mind.  Before I tried this I remember thinking: how good will this actually be?  It can't be that good, right?  It's quite an explosion of complex flavors that is very unexpected and leaves your taste buds dancing, even if you pick sunflower heads that have gotten a bit woody already, which is what happened to me this year.

There you have it, now you know that sunflower heads are edible, quite tasty, along with how to cook them.

How did your sunflower heads turn out?  What else in your garden are you wondering about the edibilityness of now?

For your viewing pleasure, here's a short video showing me cooking up my sunflower heads this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment