Sunflower Sprouts

Learn how to grow your own sunflower sprouts to have fresh greens all year long.

'Pacino' Sunflower

'Pacino' Sunflower

©2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2010, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Pacino is a sunflower variety that is small and cheerful.

Grow your own microgreens by raising a crop of sunflower sprouts. These tender greens offer a slightly almond flavor and are a cinch to grow. Whole-food aficionados give sunflower sprouts high marks in the flavor department, rating them tastier than more common sprouts — like wheat, mung or cress. The taste blends nuttiness with a hint of lemon, and the sprout serves a more toothsome bite than wispy alfalfa sprouts. 

Sunflower seeds contain almost 25 percent protein, and sunflower sprouts bring a complete protein to the dinner table. These sprouts contain a balanced supply of essential amino acids and are rich in vitamins A, D, E and the B complex, including folate. They also boast high levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. Sprouting sunflower seeds activates the powerhouse nutrition contained in the seeds at a reduced calorie count. 

Sunflower sprouts are ready to eat 7 to 10 days after planting. While other sprouts are grown in a screen-topped jar, sunflower sprouts actually need soil to germinate. Use a seed tray, or build a germination box — complete with drainage holes — with scrap lumber. For sprouting sunflower seeds, aim for a depth of 3 inches. Fill your sprouting box with 2 inches of garden soil or compost. 

To grow sunflower sprouts, soak a cup of unhulled sunflower seeds for 8 hours or overnight, drain and then scatter them — one layer thick — over the soil in your sprouting box. Press seeds firmly onto soil; you want good contact between seed and soil. Water the box and cover it with a sheet of newsprint or other thin paper. 

Place your box in a warm spot. A greenhouse is probably the perfect place, but a south-facing window works well, too. In warm weather, germinate sprouts outdoors, but take precautions against hungry critters by covering seeds with bird netting or wire mesh. 

Once a day, water the seeds through the paper until tiny sprouts start pushing up against the paper. That should take 2 to 4 days — it will occur faster in a warmer spot. Remove the paper, and water your seedlings when soil is dry, which could be as much as once daily. You can remove the seed hulls as soon as sprouts are standing up straight on their own. Sunflower sprouts are ready to harvest when the first set of seed leaves is fully open and the second set, which is hairy, hasn’t appeared. 

To harvest, snip sprouts at soil level with scissors. Rinse them well, and dry in a salad spinner. Add them to salads, sandwiches or green smoothies. Sunflower sprouts taste fabulous as a solo salad green. Toss with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon and fruity olive oil. Top with romano shavings. Or serve with toasted sunflower seeds and fresh fruit. 

Store excess sprouts in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If they’re dry and all husks are removed, they should keep five to seven days.

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