It's hard to believe that the humble little sunflower seed is a product of the large, beautiful, bright yellow sunflower plant. The sight of a field of sunflowers on a sunny day under a bright blue sky in the south of France is a thing of beauty; it's no wonder the plant has inspired so many Impressionist painters.
The seed, though, is less inspiring, at least as a work of art. Small and dusty looking, with a dark grey (or white and grey) husk, the seed is usually roasted and/or salted to bring out the mild flavour. The seeds are pressed to make cooking oil, ground to make a type of nut butter and used as feed for livestock. Unshelled seeds make a great snack for dieters because it takes time to crack them and eat the edible part, so they're consumed slowly. But a snack that's not suitable for dieters is husked seeds covered with chocolate and a colourful (think M&Ms) candy-like shell.
I like shelled sunflowers in multi-grain bread, where they're mixed with rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and other ingredients. They're also good in healthy cookies that use ground rolled oats in place of some of the wheat flour.