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Sunflowers can reach heights of 5 meters. They have coarse stalks with broad bristly leaves and petals that can range in color from golden yellow to reddish brown. Each Sunflower head is composed of thousands of individual flowers that will eventually mature into seeds. Its edible petals have a chewy texture and a green vegetal flavor with slight bitterness reminiscent of citrus pith. The heart of mature Sunflowers may be exposed by scraping off the brown center and paring away the fibrous green petals from the back and perimeter. Once cleaned, the head resembles an artichoke heart in both appearance and flavor. They have a meaty texture and the same briny flavors but finish sweet and nutty. The young unopened buds of Sunflowers may also be harvested and simply steamed whole. They too taste of artichoke but have less inherent bitterness than the mature heart.
Sunflowers are available summer through early fall.
Scientifically known as Helianthus annuus, Sunflowers are an annual in the family Asteraceae. They are of a unique group of plants that are phototropic, meaning they are physically able to follow the direction of the sun, thus optimizing light exposure and increasing photosynthesis. In fact, their name is derived from the Greek word for sun, "helios". The Sunflower plant provides more than just seeds, it is a bounty of edible parts, including leaves, oil, sprouts, buds, hearts and petals.
Petals are commonly used to add color to dishes, but may also be implemented as an ingredient. They have considerable bitterness and require a sweet or fatty element for balance. Pair them with rich cheeses and fatty meats in savory applications or as a jelly, jam, cake or cookie in desserts. Combine the petals with the naturally oily seeds in recipes for breads, muffins and even pesto. The Sunflower heart may be prepared like an artichoke heart and takes well to braising, baking, sautéing and marinating. Flavor affinities include garlic, onion, lemon, olive oil, bay leaf, thyme, parmesan cheese, ricotta, anchovy, and mayonnaise.
Sunflowers appear in the Iroquois creation myth and are a sign of abundant harvest in Hopi religion. A dye extracted from the petals was used to decorate their baskets and paint their skin in ceremonies.
Sunflowers are native to North America. They were domesticated around 1000 BC by native tribes in western United States and brought to Europe by the Spaniards centuries later. Today they are grown in semi-arid climates across North and South Ameirca, central Africa and Russia. Sunflowers require substantial irrigation to establish and deep beds of loose well draining soil.
Recipes that include Sunflowers. One is easiest, three is harder.
|The Nerdy Farm Wife||Sunflower Jelly|
|Absolute Ambrosia||Sunflower Pesto|
|Miss Lady Bug's Garden||Braised Sunflowers with Herbed Ricotta|
|Curiosita Ellya||Carrot Sun Flowers Sandwich Cookies|
People have spotted Sunflowers using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
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