This file photo is a picture of an 8 day old sunflower sprout.

How To Sprout Organic Sunflower Seeds For Microgreens

Sunflowers are easy to grow little microgreens, and they pack a punch at the dinner table too. Sunflower microgreens are an excellent source of nutrients and even protein. These tiny sprouts are great in salads, in sandwiches, and also on their own. But, how to sprout organic sunflower seeds for microgreens?

I’ve grown and sprouted sunflowers with great success using my 8 Step Sunflower Sprouting method. Take a look at the technique, it’s straightforward and works excellent for a great crop of sunflower sprouts.

Why I Like Sunflowers For Microgreens

Not only are sunflower microgreens tasty, but they are also a great source of nutrients. These little healthy sprouts have decent amounts of vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and even protein comes in at about 2% by weight. That’s not too shabby for a tiny microgreen that you can grow in your house for two weeks from seed to your table.

One of the great things I like about this microgreen is the thick and meaty little plant you get. I’ve grown kale and radish and a bunch of other micros like purple basil, for example, and they are tiny compared to the sunflower microgreen. The only downside I can see is that the seeds themselves are rather large compared to basil or kale.

The Only Disadvantage To Sunflower Microgreens

The size and weight of the sunflower seed mean that storing large quantities of seeds, ordering, and thus paying for shipping of these seeds, both of these are the drawbacks to sunflower microgreen growing. It is even more relevant if you like growing microgreens in any quantity as I do.

Sprouting Sunflower Seeds In 8 Steps

When I sprout sunflowers for microgreens, I use an 8-step method. Here it is:

  1. Mix one ounce of hydrogen peroxide with ten ounces of distilled water.
  2. Soak the seeds in the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture for 1 hour. It softens the shells a touch and helps disinfect to remove any unwanted organisms.
  3. Rinse the seeds and soak in normal cold water for another 8 hours.  
  4. Strain your seeds and set the container of wet seeds to drain but stay moist.
  5. Every 6 to 8 hours for the next two days, rinse the seeds and set to drain.
  6. After about 2-3 days, the seeds will have sprouted, and you’ll see the white curly tails sticking out of the split seed shells. Remove the sprouting seeds and spread out over some good organic soil.
  7. Lay cheesecloth over the seeds you’ve spread evenly on the moist soil. Spray the cheesecloth with water to keep it moist.  
  8. About ten days later, you will have beautiful little sprouts to either harvest and eat or let grow into giant sunflower plants.

Here’s an infographic you can save and share with the eight easy steps:

When To Sprout And When To Harvest

If you’re growing sunflowers for use as a microgreen, then the optimum time to harvest is usually between 8 and 10 days after the initial sprouting (not including seed soaking time).  The sprouted plant will be around 4-6 inches tall with a meaty yet tender stem. There will be a second set of leaves, and when these get half the size of the first set, that’s a great time to harvest.  Take a look at the sprouts of mine below.

A picture of sunflower and various other plants sprouting in a sprouting tray in Farmer Jer's basement garden.
Sunflower and other sprouts in my basement.

The cute little green sprouts in the middle of this photo are 1-week old sunflower sprouts.  Notice the second set of leaves that have recently grown. It is the optimum time to harvest these for microgreens.  However, I’m producing mine to acquire more seeds for next season, so these in the picture will not be getting collected any time soon.  But, that is the size I would harvest them if I were taking them for micros.

How Long Can Harvested Sunflower Microgreens Last?

The thing I hate the most about growing my food is forgetting about a batch of microgreens and leaving them out on the counter to whither overnight. It seems that organic and homegrown don’t help storage time after harvest. And knowing how to store your microgreens is half the battle.

There was an interesting study published in the International Journal of Chemical Studies about storing sunflower microgreens. The study was to see if either polystyrene, or LDPE plastic, or an array of chemicals, had any effect on shelf life and nutrient and chemical properties of the microgreens. Now, when I first read the study, I thought that spraying a bunch of chemicals on food was crazy. And after reading the research, I still think it’s crazy to spray chemicals on your food.

The study concluded that the variety of chemicals they sprayed on the microgreens had no positive effects on either the shelf life of the microgreens or the nutrient quality. In fact, one had a notably detrimental impact. Once again, science proves that organic is better.

Some good came out of the study, though. It concluded that the nutritional quality was better in one form of packaging more than another. When the microgreens were packaged in a polystyrene tray, the quality was better than those packaged in LDPE bags. Although I don’t think that polystyrene is beneficial to the storage, I think it has more to do with airflow around the microgreens that were sealed off in the bags. They need to breathe.

The study also pointed out that the best conditions for storage are in open trays at about 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).  The shelf life of sunflower microgreens is up to 12 days when stored at 10 degrees Celsius.

Storing Harvested Sunflower Microgreens

As mentioned, the best way to store sunflower microgreens is in trays that allow some amount of airflow. You want the humidity to remain somewhat constant at about 50%, in my opinion. Also, the temperature should be around ten degrees Celsius, which is fifty degrees Fahrenheit. That will get you just under two weeks shelf life for your sunflower microgreens.

I store my microgreens in the fridge. Next, I soak a paper towel and ring it out and place it under the microgreens in a plastic tray. I have drilled holes in several lids so the greens are protected, but can breathe. I’ve found this to be essential to preserving the greens. If I had space, I’d use a second refrigerator and set it to around 7-8 degrees Celsius (44-46 degrees Fahrenheit). My current fridge often dips to about three degrees Celsius, and anything too close to the vent gets frost. Meh, what are you going to do? I should save up and buy a new fridge, I guess. What do you think? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you would do.

Don’t forget to check out my article on Purple Basil Microgreens, too, if you like microgreens. They are a ‘basil-y’ delicious favorite of mine.

Here’s a post with a picture of a bowl of microgreens. Notice my wife has the christmas stuff out. The picture was taken in January, but that’s no excuse (wink wink).

Bowl of home grown organic microgreens. Delicious and nutritious. They taste better when you grow them yourself.

Posted by Jeremy Shantz on Friday, January 3, 2020

My Favorite Sunflower Microgreen Seeds

My favorite brand of sunflower seeds to use for microgreens is shown in this file photo.
These sunflower seeds found on Amazon are my personal favorite for microgreen gardening.

These sunflower seeds found on Amazon are produced and packaged in the USA. They are non-GMO and Organic. I’ve had a pretty success rate for sprouting too. It is a great little bag to try your hand at growing sunflower microgreens. Worth trying, you’ll probably fall for these microgreens just like I have. They are an absolute pleasure to grow and even better to eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Sunflower Microgreens?

I would think by this point in the article you would know the answer to this. However, if you just landed and skipped ahead to the shocking end, I will humor you.  Yes, you can most certainly eat sunflower microgreens.  The leaves, as well as the stem, are delicious. Not only that, but they are also highly nutritious with lots of good stuff, including vitamin K, protein, and iron, to name a few of the essential nutrients the sunflower microgreen holds.

Can You Sprout Sunflower Seeds Without Soil?

Yes, you can sprout sunflower seeds without soil, as I have done on multiple occasions.  However, there is a big difference between sprouting a seed and growing a plant. If you only intend to achieve a microgreen, you may not get far past day seven without providing some kind of nutrients. However, I’ve been able to attain five-inch tall microgreens on sterilized hemp and rubber mat and distilled water.

Can You Eat Microgreens Raw?

Yes, eating microgreens raw is the best way to get the maximum nutritional value out of the plant.  However, you need to be mindful of the soil in terms of including manure or other non-sterilized fertilizers. Due to consuming raw food, you need to be aware of how to best protect yourself from inadvertently harming yourself via the unintended ingestion of a pathogen or bacteria.

What Is The Best Type Of Sunflower For Microgreens?

The most commonly accepted ‘best’ sunflower type for use as a microgreen is the Black Oil Sunflower.  Ideally, you only want organic seed that is labeled safe for human consumption use. The last thing you should do is try using some generic birdseed sunflower seeds. These are not regulated and could have contaminants like pesticides or herbicides and should be avoided for health and safety reasons.

What Do Sunflower Microgreens Taste Like?

Sunflower microgreens have a mild and almost nut-like taste.  This pairs nicely with the crunch and hearty texture. Sunflower microgreens are a tasty, crunchy, and substantial microgreen that is a welcome addition to any salad or even enjoyed on their own.

Bibliography

  1. Nidhi Dalal, Saleem Siddiqui and Neeraj, Effect of chemical treatment, storage and packaging on physico-chemical properties of sunflower microgreens. International Journal of Chemical Studies. P-ISSN: 2349-8528. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nidhi_Dalal/publication/338885417_Effect_of_chemical_treatment_storage_and_packaging_on_physico-chemical_properties_of_sunflower_microgreens/links/5e31424b299bf1cdb9f95d1f/Effect-of-chemical-treatment-storage-and-packaging-on-physico-chemical-properties-of-sunflower-microgreens.pdf Accessed April 16, 2020
  2. Turner, Ellen R., Luo, Yaguang, Buchanan, Robert L., Microgreen nutrition, food safety, and shelf life: A review. Journal of Food Science Vol. 00, Iss. 0, 2020. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1750-3841.15049 Accessed April 16, 2020
  3. Microgreens: A New Beginning Towards Nutrition And Livelihood In Urban-Periurban And Rural Continuum, Department of Vegetable Science, ASPEE College of Horticulture & Forestry, Navsai Agricultural University, Navsari – 396 450 (Gurjarat) https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sanjeev_Kumar257/publication/326016018_Technologies_and_Sustainability_of_Protected_Cultivation_for_Hi-Valued_Vegetable_Crops/links/5b3386074585150d23d634fe/Technologies-and-Sustainability-of-Protected-Cultivation-for-Hi-Valued-Vegetable-Crops.pdf#page=261 Accessed April 16, 2020
  4. Food Data Central, United States Department of Agriculture, https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=ndbNumber:12109 Accessed April 16, 2020.

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