September 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
Until last summer, my appreciation for sunflowers was insufficient. While in Tuscany, on the ride from Siena to Florence, we passed by seas of young sunflowers, each one synchronized; following the path of the sun (heliotropism). The unison of their dance tugged me (and most likely every passer-by) to stop & enjoy the beauty of their simplicity… but we just drove by.
Last summer, I began to grow enough basil to experiment with lots of different types of pesto. In the midst of experimenting I made something similar to classic pesto, but replaced the pine nuts with hulled sunflower seeds. I was not crazy about it, but this time, I decided to be a bit more adventurous.
When I say adventurous I mean it. The very, very small bit of research I did about eating raw sunflower petals yielded some intriguing information, information that may or may not tempt you to try this for yourself. First, I ran into the possibility that the petals could be poisonous, which could be due to the fact that according to Science News some sunflowers are used to extract lead, arsenic & uranium from the soil. I decided to eat them anyway & I am still here, but I guess you should only use them if you trust the soil from which they’ve been picked. Then, after reading a horticulture source that listed the petals as an aphrodisiac I second guessed exactly what type of “poison” Science News was referring to. According to legend, the Mayans used to make “love potions” with the petals, but I’ll be sticking to pesto for now.
Recently, I read about how the seeds of sunflowers contain a significant (relative to other foods) amount of chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is an antioxidant that can work to prevent type II diabetes by slowing the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood stream. In fact, maybe you’ve heard of green coffee bean extract, or Svetol, a European weight loss supplement (NO I am not promoting this silly idea)? Svetol’s active ingredient is chlorogenic acid from coffee beans. Chlorogenic acid however, is not only found in coffee & sunflower seeds, but is also found in sunflower petals (in parts per million, ppm). So, I went for it & I’m glad I did because it was phenomenal.
Enough. Here is the recipe.
2 scant cups arugula, 1 cup Genovese basil, 1/2 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup unfiltered, raw sunflower seed oil, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese, 1/4 cup sunflower petals, chopped, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, black pepper to taste
Combine arugula, basil, seeds & cheeses in a food processor. Pulse until almost uniform texture. Add oil & lemon juice, then pulse until well combined. Remove the pesto from the food processor & mix in chopped sunflower petals.
Use the pesto to garnish warm bread or to serve over spaghetti with tomatoes. I mixed some into an arugula salad & was not disappointed at all.
Oh & by the way, did you know sunflower florets have their own mathematical equation to describe the pattern of the seeds, which corresponds to the golden ratio.