Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflower that has rays of petals emanating from its bright yellow, seed-studded center.
Thanks, whfoods.com. I don’t think I would have gotten away with that definition in the dugout, though. Most of us know them better as those salty jobs stuffed into the cheeks of baseball players and fans across the nation.
Yadier Molina spits ’em as he approaches the dish, but frankly, his top seed capacity per cheek is an utter embarrassment. Brother, you’re a beast of a player, but let’s up the count.
I looked forward to my daily consumption of sunflower seeds nearly as much as the game itself. Can I get a half a bag in there? I wore it like a badge of honor along with my uniform. If the inside of my cheeks were sore from the scrapes and the salt after a home stand, I knew I was making progress.
As my career went on and I became a little more aware, it occurred to me that damaging my tongue and cheeks every day might not be ideal. I began soaking my seeds in water to remove the excess salt before packing them in. Even as I became more aware of my health and well-being and started researching what I ate, I kept on with my ingestion of sunflower seeds. Some of my more body-conscious teammates were concerned about their higher than average calorie count, but I explained they shouldn’t worry.
“In fact,” I shared, “for a nervous baseball player like you, the magnesium in seeds may be especially helpful.”
Okay, perhaps that wasn’t the most tactful argument, but it was certainly effective in the game of clubhouse ribbing and ultimately true. From whfoods.com:
Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is also necessary for healthy bones and energy production. …Magnesium counterbalances calcium, thus helping to regulate nerve and muscle tone. In many nerve cells, magnesium serves as Nature’s own calcium channel blocker, preventing calcium from rushing into the nerve cell and activating the nerve. By blocking calcium’s entry, magnesium keeps our nerves (and the blood vessels and muscles they enervate) relaxed. …Insufficient magnesium can thus contribute to high blood pressure, muscle spasms (including spasms of the heart muscle or the spasms of the airways symptomatic of asthma), and migraine headaches, as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue.
Soreness and fatigue reduction sound good to you, Mr. and Ms. Athlete? Me too.
Let’s take a look at our options. In the baseball dugout, there are two popular brands, David’s and Spitz. David’s lists the ingredients of the original flavor as “sunflower seeds, salt.” Spitz contains “sunflower seeds, salt, olive oil.” Cool, approved. This is a solid B plus food.
Now you can buy plenty of flavors beyond just the original. Dill pickle, ranch, BBQ – it’s all available. Let’s take a look at the ingredients on the BBQ flavor.
Sunflower Seeds, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Less than 2% of: Seasoning Blend (Dextrose, Spices, Tomato Powder, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Salt, Torula Yeast, Onion and Garlic Powder, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Hickory Smoke Flavor, Extractives of Paprika and Spice).
Eeek. That’s a whole hell of a lot of strange for sunflower seeds. Stay away from the old hydrolyzed nonsense in your food. From gnolls.com:
The process of extracting seed oils from soybeans or corn (a disturbing series of chemical reactions involving hexane, taking place in chemical plants that look a lot like oil refineries) leaves behind dehulled, defatted soy or corn meal. Typically this mush is fed to cattle…but since it’s cheap and produced by the ton due to massive, destructive subsidies for industrial monocrop agriculture, there is great financial incentive to figure out how to feed it to humans.
I’ll take a pass on the flavors. To really jump your sunflower seeds up to an A plus food, step up your game with this brand. If you really want to set the curve, try planting the sunflowers and extracting the seeds. Then get to roasting, seasoning and garnering envy for your huge cheeks.
Harvesting Sunflower Seeds
To harvest seeds, keep an eye out for ripeness. The back of the flower head will turn from green to yellow and the bracts will begin to dry and turn brown; this happens about 30 to 45 days after bloom and seed moisture is about 35%. Generally, when the head turns brown on the back, seeds are usually ready for harvest.
Cut the head off the plant (about 4 inches below the flower head) and remove the seeds with your fingers or a fork.
To protect the seeds from birds, you can cover the flowers with a light fabric such as cheesecloth and a rubber band. Or, you can cut the flower head early and hang the heads upside down until they seeds are dry; hang indoors or in a place that’s safe from birds and mice.
So what do you do with all your leftover packs of BBQ and ranch seeds? Keep them around for flicking contests in the dugout.
On deck, pumpkin seeds.