Sunflower is a flowering plant of the genus, Helianthus and the family Asteraceae, and is native to Central America. The dark gray or green-colored seeds of the sunflower plant can be eaten raw or roasted. The seeds usually remain enclosed in an oval-shaped black shell. Sunflower seeds are known to be highly nutritious, and delicious with a nutty flavor and tender texture. They are rich in vitamin B, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, proteins, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and minerals like zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
The nutritional value of the seeds is further enhanced, when they sprout or germinate. When sprouting takes place, the enzymes present in the seeds activate the stored inactive nutrients. It is quite easy to sprout sunflower seeds. This can be done either in a jar or in soil, which are explained below.
How to Sprout the Seeds in a Jar
First of all, you will need raw and organic, hulled sunflower seeds. If you can't find such seeds, then use the regular raw seeds, provided they are not salted. Also make sure that they are removed from the oval-shaped shell.
Next, you will need a glass jar with a wide mouth. Place the seeds in the jar, and then soak them in water. Let the seeds soak in water for the whole night. Next day, rinse the seeds carefully, and drain the excess water with the help of a strainer. Now, put the seeds back into the jar, cover the mouth with a light cloth, and keep it in a cool place.
As the seeds sprout, their skin come out. Remove their skin as much as possible by rinsing the seeds from time to time. If the skin gets spoiled, it will eventually cause the sprouts to rot. So, keep rinsing and draining the seeds every 4 to 5 hours. Sunflower seeds usually need 18 hours to sprout.
Once they have sprouted, rinse them again to remove their skin as much as possible and drain the excess water. Otherwise, fungi or bacteria can grow easily in the humid environment of the jar. After rinsing properly, place the sprouted seeds in a dry canning jar with a tight-fitting lid, and store the jar in the refrigerator.
How to Sprout the Seeds in Soil
Many people prefer to germinate sunflower seeds in soil instead of a jar. If you are one of them, you will need light, organic and sterilized potting soil, and a shallow container. First of all, soak the seeds in water, preferably in lukewarm water for the whole night. Next day, drain the water and place the seeds in a container, filled with the potting soil. Moisten the soil a bit before spreading the seeds. Cover the seeds with moist soil and wrap the container with a thin plastic. Use the kind of plastic that is usually used for wrapping food.
Keep the container in a warm and dark place, and expose it to sunlight for about 2 to 3 hours a day. The seeds will sprout within 3 to 4 days. The sprouts can be harvested when they reach a height of 8 inch. Use a kitchen scissor and cut the sprouts close to the soil surface. Now, water the container to obtain another harvest of sunflower sprouts. Store the harvested sprouts in the refrigerator.
Sunflower sprouts can be eaten raw, or added to salads and sandwiches. They can be used for garnishing soups as well. They can provide several vital nutrients, and help improve vision, lower blood pressure, reduce the level of blood cholesterol, improve digestion, and enhance immune response. They can also help prevent migraine headaches and reduce the level of stress.