Sunflower Microgreens: Nutrition Facts, Heath Benefits, Growing and Recipes

by Jason Lee • 12/10/2018

For the longest time, I thought that you can't eat sunflower greens. Imagine rubbing your hands on prickly sandpaper. Now imagine eating that for dinner. But boy I was so wrong.

Can you eat sunflower microgreens? The answer is a resounding yes. Sunflower sprouts and microgreens have been widely eaten for many years. Sunflower microgreens taste in between pistachios and margarine, with a succulent bite and crispy stem. Moreover, they are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that gives you cancer fighting and heart protective effects. With the large size of sunflower seeds, it's also one of the easiest and faststest microgreens to grow.

Sunflower Microgreens Nutrients Fights Cancer

Sunflower microgreens contain cancer fighting compounds common such as sulphoraphane, isothinocynates, and antioxidants. Moreover, nutritional studies has proved that the consumption of sunflower greens is correlated with reduced cancer rates of multiple organs (1).

The biggest benefit of eating sunflower microgreens is that the amounts of these cancer fighting compounds is at least 5 to 10 times in sunflower microgreens than adult plants. And by germinating the seeds, the plant is converting a lot of the anti-nutrients in the seeds into bio-available nutrients.

Sulphoraphane and isothinocynates are both antioxidants found in sunflower microgreens. Your body naturally produces oxygen radicals that damage your DNA. Antioxidants neutralize the radicals, preventing the development of cancer.

Isothinocynates also inhibit cancer cell growth (2). In addition, Isothinocynates have been proven to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. This super chemical family can help you fight stomach ulcers and gastric issues caused by bacteria such as Helicobacter Pylori.

Sunflower Microgreens Nutrition Facts

In addition to fighting cancer, sunflower microgreens are full of essential nutrients. Sunflower microgreens only contain 4 calories per serving (85 g). Plus, they are full of healthy unsaturated fats and iron. Unfortunately, sunflower microgreens do not contain significant amounts of vitamin A, Vitamin C or Calcium.

For a more complete nutrition package, I recommend mixing your sunflower microgreens with microgreens from the brassica family (kale and broccoli) for vitamin A, Vitamin C and Calcium.

Sunflower Microgreens Nutrients Improves Heart Health

When the sunflower plant germinates out of the seed, it converts the saturated fats stored in the seed into unsaturated fats. More specifically, it converts stearic fatty acid and myristic fatty acid into linolenic and oleic fatty acids.

Linolenic and oleic fatty acids ae essential nutrients. They protect your body from cardiovascular diease by suppressing the production of bad cholesterol in your body (4).

Sunflower Seeds from the Grocery Store

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Sunflower seeds

One of the advantages of growing sunflower microgreens is that sunflower seeds are sold everywhere. You don’t have to go to the specialty seeds store in a gardening store to find it.

The first thing you have to look for when you’re scrounging around the grocery store is the bulk section. This is the place where they usually sell all kinds of nuts like almonds and cashews in large plastic bins.

The second thing to look for is whether or not the seeds have been roasted. This is very common for prepackaged seeds that have been salted or added flavoring. You’ll want the raw and unseasoned one because roasting the seed is going to cause the seedling to die.

Here is the one that I got from my grocery store in Canada. Not bad for a large amount of seeds.

Testing the Sunflower Seeds

To test the whether or not your grocery store seeds are still alive, you can try the paper towel method. The paper towel method is the oldest trick in the book I use all the time in order to calculate how long it takes for seeds to germinate and how many of the seeds are alive.

To use thee paper towel method, you need a paper towel, a Ziploc bag and scissors. First, cut the paper towel to roughly twice the size of the Ziploc bag and wet it lightly.

Place a bunch of seeds in one corner, and fold the paper towel over the seeds. Put the paper towel in the Ziploc bag, and leave it alone in a dark place for 2-3 days. If the seeds are viable, you should see tiny roots jutting out from the seed husks

Sprouting Sunflower Microgreens

To sprout the sunflower seeds, place the seeds on top of the growing medium, and cover with 1 inch of growing medium.

The biggest mistakes that people make while sprouting seeds is that they drown the seeds in water. This will kill the seeds or cause them to rot. Make sure to drain excess water from the growing medium.

Growing Sunflower Microgreens

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Seeding Sunflower on growing containers

The biggest difference between sprouts and microgreens is that you let the microgreens grow under a light source after the seeds germinate/sprout.

Sprouts can grow entirely in the dark. For the first week, the sunflower seedlings can rely entirely on stored food packets (cotyledons) to grow. The cotledon is full of anti-nutrients, which is converted by germination into nutrients.

If you live in a warm location, you can put your container outdoors and use sunlight to accelerate its growth. Just make sure to protect your plants from rainstorms and heat.

Water the sunflower plants 3 times a week at most. Overwatring is not reccommended due to increased risk of fungal infections

Harvesting Sunflower Microgreens

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Sunflower Microgreens ready for harvest
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Another view of sunflower microgreens ready for harvest

Once your sunflower microgreens get to about 3 inches in length or just begin to form its first pair of leaves, it’s time to harvest the greens. In order to make your life easier, pull the microgreens like you’re pulling weeds off your lawn. This way, you can shake off the excess potting soil on an empty bucket to reuse.

Wash off the remaining soil off the roots. If you plan to keep it in storage for some time, leave the roots on. If not, you can chop it off and start cooking with your freshly harvested greens.

Sunflower Microgreens Recipes

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Sunflower Microgreens Salad

Sunflower microgreens go very well on top of a meal that needs that extra crunchy texture without the wateriness of iceberg lettuce. You’re probably thinking that just add them on top of a salad and call it a day. But there’s a whole world of flavor combinations you’re missing out on.

For most traditional recipes, vegetables are never the primary showcased ingredient with a few exceptions. Try showcasing your vegetables by putting them as the main topping for soba and udon noodles. The combination of broth, vegetable and noodles will add texture and complexity that you can't find with these ingredients alone.

If you want to avoid preservatives, you can make your udon noodles from scratch. Making udon noodles is very simple: it’s two parts water to three parts flour and add a tablespoon of salt. Mix it into a ball, and knead it until it’s well mixed. Then, roll it thin, douse it with a lot of flour and cut it into strips. Boil the noodles for about 7 minutes to an al dente doneness.

To make the broth, use any of the following: dashi, soy sauce or miso. To prepare the greens, I simply put it right on top of the noodles, and add cracked black pepper or flash fry them in a tempura. If you're frying it in a tempura, the secret to a good tempura is to roll your microgreens into a ball before you dip them in the batter. This gives the tempura a mushy center and a crispy outer skin.

When I’m in the lazy sunday mood, I just use microgreens in a sandwich. With a bit of cream cheese, tomatoes and sunflower microgreens, and cracked black pepper, it takes no more than one minute to make. I hope this gives you some ideas how to pair your microgreens with recipes.

Citations

  1. G. Murillo, R.G. Mehta, Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention, Nutrition and Cancer, 41 (2001) 17-28.
  2. L. Gamet-Payrastre, Signaling pathways and intracellular targets of sul-foraphane mediating cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, Current Cancer Drug Targets, 6 (2006)
  3. Morise A. Effects of dietary alpha linolenic acid on cholesterol metabolism in male and female hamsters of the LPN strain. J Nutrition Biochem. (2006)

About the Author

Jason Lee

I am the author of this website and owner of growyourmicrogreens.com. I am an hobbyist gardener and a passionate scientist. I was trained as a scientist in the Molecular Genetics program in University of Toronto, where I received my Masters of Science and published a journal article.

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