It is believed that sunflowers have been cultivated by humans for a very long time, and the plant is said to have its origin in North America. Apart from being grown as a garden plant, sunflower is also commercially grown in different parts of the world, for its seeds that are used for extracting sunflower oil. These seeds are also roasted and consumed as a healthy snack. Roasted sunflower seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, amino acids, and cholesterol lowering phytosterols. While raw seeds are said to be more nutritious, even the roasted versions retain most of the nutrients. Here are some tips to roast sunflower seeds at home.
Harvesting and Drying: If you have sunflower plants in the garden, you have to harvest the seeds at the right time. You may let the seeds dry on the stalks and harvest only when they are completely dry. In that case, cover the flower heads with cheesecloth so as to prevent birds from eating the seeds. Another method is to cut off the stalks with the flower heads and dry them at home. Hang them upside down in a dry location with less light and plenty of ventilation. Never stack these flowers, because this may result in rotting. Once the seeds are dry, remove and store them for roasting.
Roasting Without Salt: If you prefer unsalted version, all you have to do is to spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and roast them in an oven that is preheated to 300° F. Roast them for around 40 to 45 minutes till they become crisp. You may add seasonings, like spices, olive oil, etc., before roasting. Make sure to turn the seeds occasionally, so as to prevent burning. If you plan to consume the seeds immediately, you may add a small amount of butter too (one teaspoon per cup). If the seeds are roasted with olive oil, then butter is not needed.
Roasting With Salt: Salt can be added to the seeds in three different ways. You can soak the unshelled seeds overnight in saline solution (¼ to ½ cup of salt per two quarts of water). Next morning, drain the seeds and pat dry with paper towels. If you forget to soak the seeds, you may put the seeds in saline solution and let it simmer for around two hours. After that, drain and pat dry the seeds. Spread them on a cookie sheet and roast for around 40 minutes in an oven that is preheated to 300° F. Once removed from the oven, serve the seeds with butter/margarine and other seasonings. You may add salt to the roasted unshelled sunflower seeds, once they are removed from the oven.
In short, sunflower seeds with shells can be roasted without salt, and if you have unshelled seeds, you may try both salted as well as unsalted versions. Removing the shells of raw seeds can be difficult. Run the seeds for a few seconds in a mixer and then, soak it in water. This method may crush some of the seeds, but will help to separate most of the shells. Once you put these seeds in water, the husk will float on the top and can be easily removed. However, it is always better to get unshelled seeds from the market. So try the above said tips for roasting sunflower seeds, and reap their health benefits. It is always advisable to consume these seeds in moderation, especially, the salted versions.