A sunflower seeds are botanically a fruits of the sunflower (Helianthus annuus). They are rich in fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, and are edible after they have been stripped of their pericarp. From sunflower seed, sunflower oil is extracted by pressing.
The sunflower seed have been extracted for thousands of years, originally in Mexico and Peru. Indians have been using them for over 5,000 years. The Spanish conquistadores brought the seeds to Europe.
For commercial purposes, sunflower seeds are classified according to the pattern of their skin. Seeds with completely black peels are called ‘black oil sunflower seeds’. These seeds are pressed to extract sunflower oil. Furthermore, these seeds are considered to be the most suitable seeds for bird food. Seeds with striped peels are called ‘striped sunflower seed’. These sunflower seed contain less oil than ‘black oil sunflower seeds’. This makes them less suitable for extracting oil, but more suitable to serve as food, for example in the form of snacks. Besides black and striped, there is also white sunflower seed.
Especially in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, sunflower seed is eaten a lot. These seeds, whether or not peeled, are sold loose as snacks. Sunflower seed is dried, possibly roasted to make them last longer, and surrounded with salt or flour.
Sunflower seed can also be added to dough products, such as bread.
From a sunflower seed a plant can grow, which itself produces hundreds of sunflower seeds. If grown throughout the season, large sunflowers can yield more than 1100 kg per ha at harvest. In some parts of the United States, sunflowers can also yield a double harvest if sown twice, but it is not recommended to grow sunflowers in the same area more than once every three or four years.
In addition to human consumption, sunflower seed is also sold as pet food; for example, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds. The black sunflower seeds are more suitable for feeding outdoor birds than the striped variety. Due to the significantly higher oil content, the birds get more energy from this and are easier to break open due to a thinner skin.
They are also sold to grow sunflowers.
Like many of the other popular seeds, sunflower seeds – although high in calories – contain lots of vegetable protein, healthy fats and fiber. If you eat them without their skin, sunflower seeds contain more protein than linseed and more fiber than hemp seeds. Sunflower seed also contain about the same amount of iron as hemp seeds, linseed and chia seeds (although it does not contain as much calcium).
In terms of calories, a cup of peeled sunflower seeds (818 calories) will cost you more than a cup of linseed (600 calories), but less than a cup of hemp or chia seeds (885 and 960 calories), as they contain more protein.
Sunflower seed as a separate commodity to sunflower oil is very often called non-oilseed (confection) sunflower, where production and application is geared to the snack food market. Today’s confection hybrids produce a significant level of large seeds, according to Sunflowersnsa. Producers often are paid on a percentage of large seed.
The linked article goes on to state that quality standards for confection sunflower are high and allow little tolerance for off-color and insect damage. Most confection sunflower is produced on a contract basis. As with oilseed sunflower, producers are able to pre-sell a portion of their crop well before planting begins. This allows a producer to lock in a price for a portion of their production and in return ensures domestic and foreign users of a supply.