2 May 2011

Sunflower seeds fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Figure 1:  This photograph shows the whole seed with the hull, the dehulled kernel in the form of a flower and the discarded kernels.

Figure 2: Shows the whole seed with the hull.

Sunflower seeds are my most favourite snack food in the world.  Luckily, as far as snack foods go, they are healthy and nutritious as well as tasty.  I have wonderful childhood memories of family outings in the car when my father would stop the car by the side of the road next to a field of sunflowers and buy me a freshly harvested whole sunflower head from the farmer who had a make shift shop next to his field.  He would then place the sunflower head in my arms.  It used to have a wonderful fresh smell and the colour of the sunflower was a dazzling bright yellow and the black seeds which were tightly packed into the sunflower head were fresh from the field with no artifical colourings or preservatives.  I was allowed to eat the sunflower seeds in the car and share them with my mother, my brother and my sister as long as I did not make a mess and put the discarded kernels into a bag.  So, the name of my blog, "brightly coloured sunflowers" is a take on that intensely vivid, childhood memory.  Another fond memory I have which is related to sunflowers is that my sister and I used to have timed competitions to see who could eat the most sunflower seeds in sixty seconds.  
 "When in-shell seeds are processed, they are first dried. Afterwards, they may also be roasted or dusted with salt or flour for preservation of flavor. Dehulling is commonly performed by cracking the hull with one's teeth and spitting it out while keeping the kernel in the mouth and eating it."

According to Wikipedia, the top ten sunflower producers in 2005 were as follows:

United States

The sunflower seed is the fruit of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). The term "sunflower seed" is actually a misnomer when applied to the seed in its pericarp (hull). Botanically speaking, it is more properly referred to as an achene. When dehulled, the edible remainder is called the sunflower kernel. 

In-shell sunflower seeds are particularly popular in Mediterranean and Asian countries, like Egypt, Syria, Israel, Turkey, and Malaysia, where they are commonly called garinim, ayçekirdeği, and kuaci respectively. In Turkey, Syria, and Israel, they can be bought freshly roasted in shops and markets and are a common stadium food while in Malaysia, it can be bought freshly packed in various roasted flavors at grocery and convenient stores nationwide. They are also popular in countries worldwide like Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, China, Morocco, Iran, Canada, and the United States.

Dehulled kernels have been mechanically processed to remove the hull. These kernels may be sold raw or roasted. These dehulled kernels are sometimes added to bread and other baked goods for their flavor. There is also sunflower butter, similar to peanut butter, but utilizing sunflower seeds instead of peanuts.

Nutritional value
In addition to linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid), sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, some amino acids (especially tryptophan), Vitamin E, B Vitamins (especially vitamin B1 or thiamine, vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid and folate), and minerals such as copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc.  Additionally, they are rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols."
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