Whether eating or growing sunflowers, selecting organic seed can be beneficial.
Sunflowers are such fascinating plants. Beautiful and versatile, with edible seeds that pack a nutritive punch, sunflowers are an aesthetically and practically pleasing addition to any garden. The modern sunflower Helianthus annuus is a descendant of the first domesticated sunflowers, cultivated in what is now Tennessee in prehistoric times.
When choosing your sunflower seeds, whether for consumption or production, consider going organic. Organic sunflower seeds provide additional health benefits, and farmers love organic sunflowers for practical reasons, as well. Does this Spark an idea?
Sunflower Seeds and Your Health
Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, among other important vitamins and minerals. Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals in the body, fights inflammation, and helps prevent cardiovascular disease. Selenium is a trace mineral that’s thought to help prevent cancers. Magnesium can lower high blood pressure, minimize asthma problems, and help fight muscle soreness and fatigue. Phytosterols can decrease blood levels of bad cholesterol, decrease cancer risk, and even improve the immune system’s response to disease.
Organic food products, including sunflower seeds, are grown without the use of potentially toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Keep in mind that “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “sustainable,” and that distinction has become important with changes to organic regulation in recent years. Some farming operations are able to meet the bare minimum requirements for Organic Certification without using sustainable or even healthful practices. If you choose organic labels for health or environmental reasons, it’s best to do your homework and buy from an operation that’s open about their farming practices.
Eating Organic Sunflower Seed
Organic sunflower seeds can be bought in the shell, or hulled so that only the edible portion remains. The sunflower “seed” is actually the whole fruit of the sunflower, known as an achene. The edible portion of the fruit is known in botanical terms as the “kernel.” When you purchase — or grow — organic sunflower seeds to eat, you know that what goes into your body is nothing but the nutritive sunflower kernel.
Farming with Organic Sunflower Seed
Organic seed often costs more than standard commercially grown hybrid seed stock and can be more difficult to find.
According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, conventional growers of seed crops are more likely to douse plants grown for seed stock with high levels of chemicals. Plants are left in the ground longer in order to go to seed and may receive more applications than their grocery-store-bound counterparts; and governmental restrictions on chemicals are less strict since the seeds are not a direct food crop.
Organic varieties tend to be heartier than their chemical-dependent counterparts. In addition, organic, nonhybrid, or heirloom, varieties produce viable seed that can be saved and planted in later growing seasons. Conventional hybrid seed varieties will not produce viable, savable seed.