Many people love sunflowers for their cheery sunshine faces but did you know that the whole sunflower plant is edible from the roots to the petals and seeds. Harvesting sunflower buds and preparing them like artichokes is just one way to enjoy this edible flower.
The sunflower is a gorgeous garden flower. We planted hundreds of sunflowers at Joybilee Farm this summer to make the farm look sunny and cheerful for Sarah’s wedding at the beginning of August. Now I am enjoying bringing armloads of sunflowers into the house to enjoy as bouquets. The bees and pollinators are also enjoying the sunflowers. Even the pollenless varieties offer nectar for bumble bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
I woke up this morning to a chill in the air. Fall is just around the corner. The sunflowers I planted for the wedding, are just now beginning to bloom in earnest. But frost is at the door. With the smoky skies we’ve had from the BC fires this summer, the summer heat units are nonexistent. The sunflowers were just beginning to open for the wedding last week. Of course, now that the wedding is past, the majority of the sunflowers are opening. However, there are a lot of unopened buds too. These would be ruined by a light frost right now.
I’ve wanted to try cooking sunflower artichokes for a while. With the abundant sunflower buds in the garden it seemed like a happy experiment to try.
A quick survey of the garden produced a basket full of plump sunflower buds. The colors of the different sunflowers were astounding, from deep mahogany to lemon yellow and pink. I planted several packets of sunflower seeds. Some heirloom sunflowers came from Baker Creek Seed Company, others came from William Dam and Johnny’s Select Seed. Its been a happy sunflower experiment with most of the seed close to flowering right now.
The only sunflowers that are not even close to flowering were the hybrid single blooming sunflowers, Sunrich Orange, from Johnny’s. It was planted June 1st and is 55 days to blooming, but it might need more heat units than the other sunflowers. It is just beginning to form flowers, but they are unlikely to flower before frost, here in zone 3. However, if the frost holds off for another 2 weeks we might be able to use them for this recipe.
I’m growing mostly floral sunflowers, but if you are growing giant sunflowers or oil seed sunflowers your flower buds will be larger and easier to work with. All the different kinds of sunflowers produce edible flower heads, so use what you have.
Look for sunflower buds that are fully closed or with just a hint of color showing. If they’ve started to open and you can see the petals unfurl they have gone too long and will be fiberous and stronger tasting. The younger the sunflower buds are the more tender they will be and the milder their flavor.
I harvested a basket full of sunflower buds from 1 inch to 3 inches in diameter.
So with an abundance of sunflower buds, I searched You-Tube to find out how to turn these stiff, hairy sunflower buds into a delicious appetizer. And when all was said and done they were delicious, mild flavored, with interesting texture, similar to artichokes but with less work.
6 steps to prepare sunflower buds like artichokes
Step 1: Harvest plump sunflower buds with fairly thick stems. Leave at least a 4 inch stem on each bud. Then you can put them in water for a day or two until you are ready to process them.
Step 2: When you are ready to process, remove the sunflower leaves and all but 1 to 2 inches of the stem from each bud.
Step 3: Bring a pot of water to a simmer, uncovered. Place the prepared sunflower buds in the simmering water. Blanche for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Step 4: Drain the sunflower buds.
Step 5: Add fresh water to the pot plus 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt. Bring to a simmer. Place the sunflower buds in the pot again. Simmer for 3 mintues or until tender. Remove from the heat. Drain. Allow the sunflower buds to cool until they can be handled.
Step 6: Using a pairing knife remove the green bracts from the sunflower buds and some of the outer layer of the green on the stem. If there are any petals formed in the bud, remove these ray florets as well. Set aside. Repeat with remaining sunflowers.
The sunflowers are now ready to use. They can be refrigerated in an airtight container and used within a week. Use these prepared sunflower buds in any recipe that you would use artichokes in. Or try the sunflower bud appetizer recipe below.
Sunflower Buds with Garlic Butter and Sunflower Seeds
Make this tasty appetizer when the sunflower buds are abundant before the frost. Prepare the sunflower buds ahead of time and cook this up just before you serve it. Serve it hot or cold.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups
- Category: Foraging
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups sunflower buds, prepared
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Juice from 1 lemon
- In a cast iron frying pan, saute butter and garlic briefly.
- Quarter larger sunflower buds, and leave smaller sunflower buds whole. Add to frying pan with the butter and garlic. Saute until warmed through.
- Add sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and lemon juice. Continue frying to warm through. Stir constantly. When the pan stops steaming remove the frying pan from the heat.
- Transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.
The sunflower buds can be prepared ahead of time and kept refrigerated for up to a week. Prepare this dish just before you plan to serve it.
- Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Keywords: Forging, sunflowers, artichokes, appetizers
Many people love sunflowers for their cheery sunshine faces but most folks don’t know that the whole sunflower plant is edible from the roots to the petals and seeds. Harvesting sunflower buds and preparing them like artichokes is just one way to enjoy this edible flower. You can also grow sunflower microgreens and use them like sprouts. Or cook the whole sunflower head for an interesting side dish.