In the Past: Seeds have been an important part of the human diet since our hunter-gatherer ancestors roamed the fields and forests. In North America, sunflowers have been grown for over 5,000 years by Native Americans, and are believed to be one of the first agricultural crops in the region. They were grown specifically for their oil-rich seeds, and medicinal qualities of other plant parts.
In the Soil: Sunflowers are iconic yellow flowers with thick stalks and giant flower heads. The plentiful seeds are found in a spiral pattern between the yellow petals tucked inside striped shells. Contrary to popular belief, the flower heads do not follow the sun as it tracks across the sky.
In the Body: Seeds are concentrated nuggets of nutrition. In their little packages, seeds contain all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates needed to sprout into a seedling. Eating seeds means we capture this nutrition for ourselves! Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain essential minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium and compounds known as phytosterols that support heart health.
In the Kitchen: In Latin America, pumpkin seeds are known as pepitas. They are used whole or hulled, and can be raw or roasted. They are traditionally ground into a mole (sauce), added as a garnish to soups or salads, incorporated into baked goods, or roasted and seasoned with spices to snack on. Sunflower seeds are roasted and salted, or pressed to create a cooking oil.
In Connecticut: When properly dried and stored in a cool dry place, seeds can last all year round! Try growing some pumpkins, sunflowers, or a popcorn variety and saving the seeds to enjoy a local treat in the winter when little other local produce is around!
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