I love sunflower microgreens. They have absolutely become a staple in my diet. I love putting proteins (eggs or salmon) on a bed of sunflower micros, with perhaps a bit of Mustard micros for some zing. They grow quickly, and pack a powerful punch of nutrition and plant-based protein, beyond being a good, living, raw food full of enzymes.
Sunflower was featured as the inaugural Crop Focus in IAF Podcast Episode 10.
Sunflower seeds will remain viable for seven years when stored in a cool, dry, dark location. The Federal Germination Standard for commercially sold seed is 75%.
Growing from Seed
Sunflowers are annuals, adapted to a wide variety of climates, and are usually direct seeded. Cover 1/2 - 1" deep. Optimum germination temperature is 75'F, taking 5-10 days. Plant in full sun; thin to 12-18" for both food and seed production.
Sunflowers are outbreeding plants. Each head has 1000-4000 individual florets, each of which will typically open for 2 days. On the first day the anthers release pollen into the anther tube; on the second, the stigman pushes up, and its two lobes open and are receptive to, but out of reach of, its own pollen. Insects, generally bees, move the pollen around, causing fertilization.
It takes 5-10 days for all the florets on a single flower to open. A typical flower may have dried florets around its outside edge, followed by a ring of receptive stigmas, then another ring of pollen shedding florets, and unopened florets in its center.
Some varieties are self-incompatible, requiring the transfer of pollen from one plant to another. Others are self-compatible, so insects need only move the pollen from floret to floret on the same flower head.
Sunflower sprouts are made of 24% to 30% protein. High in fiber, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins A, B complex, C, D and E, they also contain calcium, phosphorous, iron, iodine, potassium, magnesium and the trace elements zinc, manganese, copper and chromium. You'll get some good fiber from these guys as well.
American Indians used sunflower plants in their entirety. The stalks were used for bean poles and animal fodder, and were peeled into thin sheets for use like paper. Immature leaves, flower petals and roots were all cooked as vegetables. Mature leaves were used as a tobacco substitute and for animal feed.
Sunflowers are grown commercially also for their high oil content.