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Sunflower

(Helianthus annuus)

 

The sunflower is an annual plant native to North America, which has spread widely throughout Europe due to the versatility of its seeds. The seeds produce edible oils , and – when shelled – are a nutritional food for humans. The shells are also be used to make “pellets”, which can then be used for fuel. On a farming level, sunflowers are quite a demanding plant in terms of temperature and water. For this reason, it is grown in the temperate regions of Italy, during the spring-summer cycle, in clay soils that have the ability to retain a substantial amount of water. The inflorescence, also known as "flower head", looks like a large yellow flower, but is actually composed of many small flowers grouped together, each of which develops a seed. The sunflower provides an excellent pasture for bees thanks to the abundance of pollen.

Sunflower seeds are tasty and high in calories. However, compared to other oilseeds, they are considered the “lightest”. Their lipids are mainly unsaturated oleic acid (monounsaturated, omega-9) and linoleic (polyunsaturated, omega-6), which help regulate cholesterol levels in the blood and help prevent cardiovascular disease. What distinguishes sunflower seeds from other oilseeds is its rich vitamin content – one of the highest in the plant world. In particular, sunflower seeds contain the rare vitamin B12, absent in almost all other foods of plant origin, and a very high content of vitamin B1. It also contains tocopherol (vitamin E), which is the vitamin with the highest antioxidant effects, and currently very sought after for its ability to slow aging and protect the body from degenerative diseases. Among the minerals found in sunflower seeds, it contains a good quantity of selenium (which also has interesting antioxidant properties), iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and zinc. The presence of fiber and protein is nothing less than the rest of these vitamins and minerals. For all these reasons, it is considered an ideal food to replenish energy.

 

 



How to use them:

Among other things, they are ideal for breakfast or a snack, because of their high energetic value. Eaten together with other foods or alone, it is recommended to consume 10-20 grams per day. They are delicious when added to bread mixtures, natural plain yogurt, salads, grilled vegetables, or eaten alone.

 

 

Hulled sunflower seed patè


Ingredients: 300 g sunflower seeds, a small bunch of parsley (or any other fresh herb you like), sesame oil, salt
Cooking Instructions: in a blender, mix all the ingredients together until they are well blended (sunflower seeds are not easy to grind), then spread the mixture on a slice of toasted bread.

 

Ham and sunflower seed loaves


Ingredients: 200 g of raw, sweet ham cut into 2 slices, 150 g of hulled sunflower seeds, 450 g of white wheat flour, type 0 , 50 g of wheat flour, 50 g of butter, 35 g of yeast, 1 egg white, 1 teaspoon of sugar, olive oil, 1 / 2 tablespoon salt, 1 / 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Cooking Instructions: Cut the ham into thin cubes and put them to the side. Put the yeast and sugar into a glass of warm water. Join the two types of flour and pour them into a heap on the table, creating a well in the middle. In the central cavity, put the sugar, salt, coarsely ground pepper, and melted butter. Add the water with the yeast and mix the ingredients together. Keep adding warm water to knead the dough until it is not too hard. Flatten the dough and the intersperse the surface with the diced ham and sunflower seeds. Mix them in well to blend the ingredients, form a loaf and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover it with a cloth that is damp with warm water and let it rise for 30 minutes. After this time, briefly knead the dough again and cut it into twelve mini-loaves. Grease two baking trays with oil and arrange the loaves on the tray with a good amount of space between them. Brush them with egg white, that has been lightly beaten, and sprinkle them with the remaining sunflower seeds. Bake in preheated oven at 200 ° C for 30 minutes. Let them cool on a wire cake rack and serve.

 

Smoked risotto with sunflower seeds


Ingredients (makes 4 servings): vegetable broth, 320 g Carnaroli rice, 150 g smoked Provola cheese, 100 g of sunflower seeds, extra virgin olive oil, 30 g raisins.
Cooking Instructions: Boil the broth. Heat some oil in a pan and toast the rice for a minute. Cook the rice for 15 ', adding the broth a little at a time and ensuring that it remains rather fluid. Quickly roaste the sunflower seeds in a non-stick pan and cut the smoked provola into cubes. When the rice is cooked stir in the cheese and raisins, and garnish the plates with the toasted sunflower seeds.

 

Grilled eggplant with sunflower seeds


Ingredients: eggplant, sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt.
Cooking Instructions: wash the eggplants and slice them length-wise. Grill the eggplant. Crush and sprinkle the sunflower seeds onto the previously grilled eggplant. Season with salt, oil and lemon juice to taste.