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About Sunflower Seeds
About Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers first originated from the Four Corners area of the Southwestern U.S., where native people were making use of the seeds as long ago as 2,000 years. They entered the mass arena when the Spanish brought them home in the 1500s and the seeds gained popularity in Eastern Europe. Ironically, at first Americans had little use for them and it was Russian immigrants who reintroduced sunflower seeds to America in the late 19th century (Russia today remains one of the world's top producers). Only 30 years ago, U.S. farmers planted only a few thousand acres of sunflowers, but, today, the sunflower is a major crop, likely because it has so many applications beyond the seeds harvested for eating: animal feed (leaves), dyes (from the flowers) and sunflower oil (extracted from the kernel). The seeds we use for snacking are substantially larger that those used for oil. In the U.S., many of these confectionary seeds come from Kansas and the Dakotas. Sunflowers also are harvested for their seeds throughout Europe and parts of Asia and South America.

sunflowerThere are more than 50 different kinds of sunflower plants, some of which can grow up to 10-feet tall. The heads of young plants follow the sun's movement in the sky from dusk to dawn, from east to west. At harvest, about 4 months after planting, the heads droop; most of the seeds are hulled, their outer shells removed and sold either raw or roasted. Oil seeds are generally small and black; the confectionery seeds (those we eat) are usually striped.

Many processors soak the in-shells in brine and then roast them at Zenobia, we salt the outside of the shells during a batch roasting process, rendering the seeds crispier and easier to open, making them extraordinarily popular for snacking.

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