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How to Grow Sunflower Sprouts: Easy, Fun, Delicious, Free

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

 Some years ago, I went to Casa Nueva in Athens, Ohio, with my friend Mimi. Mimi knows all the best things in Athens. "I always order this salad, just for the sunflower sprouts," she enthused. I love sunflower sprouts."
Of course, I ordered the same salad, and plowed into a big pile of delicate sprouts. I adore them, too. I could eat them every day.

"Why don't I sprout sunflowers?" I mused aloud.

"I used to do it, all the time," Mimi replied. "When we were all living in a group house, you know." I smiled. I could see the scene. Buncha longhair musicians, growin' their own sprouts, eatin' government tofu.

That was all the encouragement I needed. I went home and started experimenting. First, I went to the store and bought organic sunflower hearts for snacking, thinking that would get me the cleanest sprout. I put them on damp paper towels to see if they'd grow. And they sat there, grew mold and rotted. Rats!!

I'm not sure, but they may have been heat-treated. They may have been labeled organic, but those seeds were dead. Come to think of it, hulled sunflower seeds taste dead to me. Back to the drawing board.

I went out to the garage and got a couple handfuls of black oil sunflower seeds from the wild bird seed bin. I put about an inch of vermiculite in a shallow plant saucer, pressed the seeds into it, watered and voila! A day later they were starting to sprout. Sunflowers sprout and grow at a dizzying pace. You can have edible sprouts within a week.

Nowadays, I use clean Pro-Mix potting soil. I press the seeds into about an inch of soil, cover them lightly with more soil,  and keep the soil moist but not inundated, as the big plant saucer has no drainage holes. Within a week, I'm harvesting delicious sunflower sprouts.

However,  I have to grow them indoors. The chipmunks get them immediately, even on the top shelf of a baker's rack.
Who, me? 

With the last batch, I thought I'd outsmart the chipmunks, so I put my saucers on 3' high pedestals outside, in the open, with nothing a chipmunk could jump from nearby. The next morning, every single sunflower seed had been dug out. No chipmunk can get on a 3' pedestal, and a bird won't dig. Chipmunks climb very well, but they can't jump for crap. I could only conclude that a flying squirrel had found them in the night, because they were fine at sundown and gone in the morning. I got a good laugh out of that. It's always somethin' around this place!

The perp. Taken on my back deck railing. Gawww I love flying squirrels.

Ain't no stopping a flying squirrel. It's an honor to have them clean me out. I pray they never get a taste for the Achimenes rhizomes the chipmunks love so much, because I'm really screwed then. My chipmunk-proof growing table will do me no good at all. Please, little hanky squirrels, no.

 I gave up entirely trying to grow them outdoors, and I'm producing them in the living room now, next to the deck door, where they'll get some light. Hey. That's why they call it a living room. Mine is anything but formal.

To harvest, I use a scissors to cut them off at soil level.

 I like to harvest them just after they cast off their seed shells, and before the first true leaves appear. 
Phoebe and I love to sit and twiddle off the seed shells, but if you wait a few days, they'll cast them off naturally.

Once you've harvested them, there might be a modest second wave of sprouts, but I'll compost these sad little stumps today and start over with fresh soil. I do hate cutting off seedlings; it feels wrong to me.  But I get over it because I love eating them! YUM!

Being alive, sunflower sprouts keep beautifully in a Ziploc in the fridge, and are fabulous on salads and BLT's. And live sprouts are the best, most satisfying, healthy snack ever!  

I've held onto this post long enough to show you the second wave. Here's the second cohort, photo taken August 4--only three days after planting. They were ready to harvest by Aug. 6.  I used even less soil than last time--barely an inch. And I put more seeds in, almost covering the soil with them.

 I can tell you that you can't re-use the soil, because when you upend it to dump it, you find it's a solid living mass of white roots from all those beheaded seedlings. So dump it, wash the saucer and start with fresh soil. 

Like container-grown lettuce, (my other obsession) sunflower sprouts are a fabulous free food you can grow year-round. You don't need to live in the country or even need to have a garden to grow them.  You don't even have to have a sunny window. Any window will do. Heck, they'd sprout in total darkness. Do it! Homegrown is always way better than anything you could buy. 

Tower room lettuce, Earth Day 2018. Alive, clean, salmonella free. And so much better than storebought. Now this, you do need sun to grow. But sunflower sprouts, anyone can grow, anywhere.

 This has been a PSA from Indigo Hill, where we know that all the best things in life are free.


Fabulous! I've been thinking about the lettuce since your earlier post. What direction is your tower exposure? I only have east and west, but I could try. Love your stories as always. Thanks!

@Wordsmith, the tower room is glass on all sides. I put the lettuce on the east, south and west windowsills and it does great. But then it's kind of like a greenhouse. I honestly don't know if it's possible to container-grow lettuce on an ordinary windowsill. A Florida room or sunporch, for sure. Doesn't cost anything to try. Now, outdoors, I can grow beautiful lettuce in bright shade. It's better that way--leaves are thinner, sweeter and more tender.

This time of year in Kansas we are covered in sunflowers. Different varieties abound. I never thought about eating sunflower sprouts. I have a great sunroom but it is currently in use while I wait for this batch of black swallowtail butterflies to eclose. You always come up with the greatest ideas for your readers.

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