Harvest time is nigh. All over the country, combines are moving across fields to collect the yield of countless crops. And in parts of Colorado, this includes the glorious sunflower. Driving by a field of these lovely, happy beauties under a blue mountain sky is both gratifying and novel. The yellow petals that are mounted atop the mighty green stalk may initiate thoughts of an earless, Danish artist or a bench full of baseball players chewing and spitting.
When we consider the sunflower here at Kate’s, we are drawn to the benefits of its humble seed. This little miracle of nature carries Vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E’s anti-inflammatory effects result in the reduction of symptoms in asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, conditions where free radicals and inflammation play a big role.
The phytosterols found in this tiny nutritional powerhouse are believed to reduce cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers. Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium. This mineral helps to lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches, as well as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Archaeologists have discovered that this crop was cultivated even prior to corn. Native Americans grew and found many uses for the whole plant some five thousand years ago. This included pounding the seeds into a flour that was used to make bread; eating them frequently as a snack, and harvesting the healthy fat that is found within the seed as a cooking oil.
Parts of the plant were used medicinally – from snake bite mitigation to body ointments. The versatile oil was used on skin and hair, and the dried stalk as a building material. The plant matter can be used to create a purple dye for textiles, and the indigenous people of North America also utilized the plant and its seeds in sacred ceremonies.
The seeds were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, and after great success as a crop in Russia, the seed found its way back to the U.S. in the late 19th century. By that time, the use of sunflower oil had become commonplace throughout Europe, and acreage spread due to the oil demand. Today, the U.S. crops are grown primarily in North and South Dakota, Minnesota and California. Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas are also part of the mix.
If you dig on the idea of a sunflower seed DIY – harvesting, brining, drying and roasting your own sunflowers seeds is pretty easy – and immensely satisfying. You can taste and see these little morsels of goodness in our Tram and Grizzly bars. We love the mild peanut flavor of these seeds, and the texture that provides a distinct yet soft crunch. From our real food recipes to your on-the-go lifestyle – Kate’s Real Food is providing thoughtful and tasty nutrition, one ingredient at a time.