Inside Urban Gardening: Growing Sunflower Greens at Home
– Chantale Roy
Freshness, flavor, incomparable nutritional content, inexpensive are some of the qualities we find in succulent sunflower greens (or shoots) that brighten my home and my plate. We can buy them, but we can grow them wherever we live. All we need is some basic knowledge as well as some equipment and of good sprouting seeds.
Here’s, step by step, how to create a sunflower green garden, rural or urban, but inside your home:
From the sprouted seed in a jar, its growth on top soil, until ready to be harvested.
1- Sprouting Seeds
The first step is easy, but fundamental: finding first quality sunflower seeds, organic with a good rate of germination. Also, the younger the seeds, the better it is since they have more chances to sprout evenly on the tray. One also can harvest them in big sunflowers that were grown in the garden at the end of the summer!
Online supplier recommended: Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds
Here are the sprouting sunflower seeds: http://sprouting.com/canadian/sunflower-black-oilseed.html
Organic Sprouting Sunflower Seeds
The 2nd step is easy as well: soak the seeds in water, overnight, in a glass jar, covered with a screen, to filter. Then in the morning, drain the seeds and rinse them well.
Each tray usually costs less than $2 to produce at home. On the other hand, if one buys them already harvested in stores, one can pay up to $5/ bag. Each tray gives between 4 and 6 of these bags. One can also buy such entire tray (top soil and non harvested greens) for about $15. It worths to spend a few minutes a day to save that much money!
3- Sprouting the seeds
The 3rd step will last about 2 days. First, place jar at 45 degrees, upside down, allowing water to drain itself. Fill up with water and drain well, in the morning and evening. Everytime put the jar back, upside down in the dish rack for instance.
Let the sunflower seeds sprouting in a jar, as these red clover seeds for example, but only during a maximum of 2 days.
4- In soil
Two days later, after the last rinsing, it is time to spread the seeds directly in 54 cm X 27 cm X 7 cm tray, filled with half (height) of top soil without chemicals, of course. It is useless to bury the seeds; do nothing but put them on top of the soil. Water them of a gentle mist of water, using a sprayer. Finally, put another tray on top. The roots will develop and the stems will push the extra tray so you will just need to remove it 2 days later.
Morning and evening, water lightly without flooding your baby plants, since there is no hole in the tray to drain the eventual surplus of water. When you water, make sure you do it on the soil and not directly on the plants.
You can find these trays in garden centers all the year long for a few bucks. Otherwise, you can use a cafeteria tray, a cookie sheet, etc.
The last days of growth will serve to form two leaves and to store chlorophyll through the sunlight. This one must not be direct, therefore no need to add neons or to put the plants in a window with full sunlight!
Sunflower and Pea Shoots, even during winter!
Even in a rainy city like Vancouver, there will be enough sunlight to grow sunflower greens! No need to artificial lighting system.
When the 2 first leaves are formed, just before the formation of the third one, you can cut the sprouts using scissors. To do so, cut it as low as possible. You put them in a sealed container (glass, preferably) or in a green bag. Store them for up to 1 week. Before eating or juicing them (check out my e-book « Creative Juices for a Meal »), immerse them in a big bowl of water, shake lightly to remove husks that would still be stuck to the leaves, remove gently the sprouts to drain them in a sieve while taking care to separate husk as much as possible. If you juice them, remaining husks will not bother the masticatory extractor like a model from Omega, for example.
Cut the sprouts to the bottom of the stems. Sometimes, there is a little bit of mildew; simply rinse them abundantly before eating them.
Here’s one of my favorite juicers: Omega 8005. You can find it on specialty websites:
What to do with the remaining roots? Evidently, it is possible to see some seeds growing back after you harvest the greens. Then you can continue to harvest what grows, but the stems already having been cut will give more lean and poor plants in a nutritional point of view, because the plants are “annual” (they are destined to grow only one single time). Personally, I put it all in the compost bin, since that returns to Mother Earth.
Then I continue the cycle with other seeds that I soaked, while the first ones were put on soil. Thus, I have a regular harvest of sunflower greens for several of my dishes and daily juices!
Sunflower Green Juice
You can enjoy sunflower greens as they are, in juices, salads, sushi, sandwiches (raw or cooked), etc. For recipe ideas, have a look at my books « Rawfreshing Cuisine », « Rawfreshing Express ! » and « Creative Juices for a Meal ».