Food & Beverage

Sep 1, 2015

Versatile Sunflower

Sunflower seeds are the gift of the beautiful sunflower that has rays of petals emanating from its bright yellow, seed-studded center.

The flower produces grayish-green or black seeds encased in tear-dropped shaped gray or black shells that oftentimes feature black and white stripes. Since these seeds have a very high oil content, they are one of the main sources of polyunsaturated oil. 

Major Products

There are three types of sunflower oil available; Mid-Oleic Linoleic and High Oleic sunflower oil. All are developed with standard breeding techniques. They differ in oleic levels and each one offers unique properties. With three types of sunflower oil available, sunflower oil meets the needs of consumer and food manufacturers alike for a healthy and high performance non-transgenic vegetable oil.

Confection sunflower seeds are normally black with white stripes and provide consumers with in-shell seeds and kernel. In-shell means the seed is left intact with the "meat" of the seed still in the shell. It is normally roasted and seasoned. It is eaten as a snack by cracking the shell with one's teeth, discarding the hull and eating the delicious morsel within. 'Chew and spit' is a great American pastime, especially at baseball games and other outdoor events. Kernel means the processor has mechanically removed the hull. The resulting kernel is now in a convenient form to be sold raw or roasted for snacking or as an ingredient.

History

While sunflowers are thought to have originated in Mexico and Peru, they are one of the first plants to ever be cultivated in the United States. They have been used for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans, who not only used the seeds as a food and an oil source, but also used the flowers, roots and stems for varied purposes including as a dye pigment. The Spanish explorers brought sunflowers back to Europe, and after being first grown in Spain, they were subsequently introduced to other neighboring countries. Currently, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world. Today, the leading commercial producers of sunflower seeds include the Russian Federation, Peru, Argentina, Spain, France and China.

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