Pumpkin seed and Sunflower seed flour.

I have put these two seeds in a post together partly because we often use them together and partly because I found the sunflower seed de-husking to be so time consuming and frustrating that I have given up on them as a homegrown flour option. That is until I find a faster de-husking method that actually works… 

Pumpkin seed flour 

While all pumpkins have seeds, it is the hull-less or ‘naked’ seed varieties which are usually grown specially for their edible seeds. We grow the Austrian oilseed pumpkin which has lovely green hull-less seeds. The flesh we find to be rather tasteless, so not good as roast pumpkin or for any pumpkiny recipes. But if you treat it more as a vegetable soup or stew vege, it still has its use in the kitchen, grated it could be used place of courgette or marrow in some recipes. We will often use it as pig food over the slower grass growth months, just harvesting the seeds as we need them. Pumpkin plants are easy to grow and if given well fed soil will produce several pumpkins per plant. They are grown over the warmer months as they are frost tender and once the plant starts to die down the mature pumpkins can be harvested and stored in a dry airy place out of the sun. Leaving the pumpkins to finish maturing off the vine for a couple of weeks before harvesting the seed will give you a better seed harvest. 

The seeds are easy to harvest, simply cut the pumpkin in half and pull the seeds from the flesh. They should come away quite clean if you just pull on the seeds. These seeds then need to be dried; this can be done in the sun on a tray, a dehydrator or in the oven on the lowest setting. It should only take a couple hours depending on the temp, too high and you’ll get roasted pumpkin seeds, which are very tasty. Prior to drying seeds can be soaked to remove the excess tannins, phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors which makes the nutrients more bio available, more info on that in our Walnut flour post. 

Once fully dry simply store in airtight container in a cool dark place or in the fridge if necessary. Grinding fresh and using within the week keeps your flour in top condition. 

While each pumpkin only yielded about 60g of dried seeds the fact that the flesh can also be used, even if it’s just for pig food, adds value to the crop. Unlike nuts which take many years to produce pumpkins supply the goods over just one summer, so a fast flour crop to establish. Nutrition wise pumpkin seeds have per 100g approximately, carbs 15g, protein 30g and healthy fat 49g. But they are also full of valuable nutrients like magnesium and zinc, so a great addition to your diet. 

Sunflower seed flour 

Sunflowers are the epitome of summer with their large bright flower heads that follow the path of the sun. But it seems that I just grow them for the sake of having them in the garden, as hulling the seeds is not a job I enjoy. Most often ours end up as chook fun, as we let them have the hulling job. This is the one flour that I have tried which, at this stage, I will just leave to the mass producers. It took me an hour of trying different hulling methods to get a very small amount of hulled seed and most of the seed was still in the shells… 

Considering I can buy sunflower seeds for under $9 per kilo it just doesn’t seem worth it to hull them for flour, for snacks yes, I’m fine with that, it’s part of the fun. But taking a couple of hours of fiddly work for just 1 cup of flour just doesn’t do it for me. 

Sunflowers sharing their brightness on a gloomy day.

However they are still a great alternative flour which you can grow at home! Not too mention the other great reasons to grow sunflowers, summer garden shade, bee food, bird food, stock fodder (our cow decapitated several which were too close to the fence). But even better, their deep roots open up and aerate the soil, then if left in place to die down, they feed and mulch the soil which also increases the soils water holding capacity. Be aware however that Sunflowers are considered to be allelopathic, which means they suppress the growth of other plants surrounding them. The petals were apparently used in ancient Iranian and Chinese medicine in the form of herbal teas to heal wounds, lower blood pressure, strengthen the stomach and bring on childbirth.

Nutritionally sunflower seeds have per 100g, approximately, carbs 23g, healthy fats 55g, protein 17g plus lots more valuable nutrients such as vitamin E and selenium. As above soaking prior to drying helps to make these the nutrients more bio available. Once fully dry, simply store in airtight container in a cool dark place or in the fridge if necessary. Grinding fresh and using within the week keeps your flour in top condition. 

Both pumpkin seed and sunflower seed flour can be used in most recipes which use seed or nut flour, but pumpkin seed tends to have a stronger flavour. We use them mainly in bread or cracker recipes.

Low Carb Bread

Nut and seed breads are quite different to grain based breads, usually much denser, and lacking the fluffiness gluten breads have. But they get the job done, smeared with butter and your favourite spread, crammed with tasty sandwich fillings or dunked into hot soups. This is the best low carb bread recipe we have come across so far and is adapted from a Pete Evans recipe to suit our family.

  • ½ cup psyllium husk 
  • 1 cup coconut flour 
  • 3 Tbsp chia seed 
  • ½ cup, heaped, L.S.A or other nut or seed flour 
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder 
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt 
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter or coconut oil 
  • 450ml water 

Preheat oven to 180°C 

Line a loaf pan with baking paper. 

Mix dry ingredients well. 

Beat eggs and add to water and vinegar, pour into dry ingredients and add melted butter. Mix well, let sit for a couple of minutes and stir well again. 

Put dough into loaf pan pushing down gently to full pan. 

Bake for 1 ½ hours or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 

Walnut Flour

We struggled to find foraged walnuts for this trial as there are only Japanese walnuts on our property and those the pigs can have. But having processed walnuts many times in the past, we have noticed there is a vast difference in the size and quality of nuts from various trees. The larger nuts are course easier to process, but we have found that sometimes the smaller nuts can be very tasty. Finding a nut which you like the taste of would be a good idea as some are sweeter than others and some can be bitter. Interestingly I have seen talk that the longer the outer husk stays on the shell the more bitter the nut will be, but we have not tested this theory yet.  Usually, walnuts are dried before eating, this drying time will vary depending on the moisture around, so a warm dry spot out of the sun is best and dry until the nuts are no longer rubbery and have more of a crunch. Once dried you should be able to store them for at least a year in their shells in a cool dry place. Just make sure it is rodent proof… 

Deshelled walnuts

If you live in a damp environment, have issues with rodents or just want to try a tasty method, they can be ‘activated’. This is the process of soaking nuts in salted water to remove excess tannins, phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. It activates enzymes within the nut which neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.  Many traditional cultures understood the need to ‘treat’ some foods before consuming. Nuts and seeds were often soaked or partially sprouted prior to eating. The reason for this is that the enzyme inhibitors that they contain can put a strain on your digestive system if large amounts of raw nuts and seeds are consumed. This practice of soaking the nuts not only makes them easier to digest but also extremely tasty. Once soaked the nuts are dehydrated and develop a lovely crispy texture with a touch of saltiness.  The practice of ‘activating’ nuts and seeds goes back to ancient cultures such as the Aztec who used to soak their pumpkin seeds in brine and then dry in the sun before eating them whole or grinding them into meal. For more information on this look into Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, or the work of Weston A Price who researched diets of indigenous cultures in the early 1900s.  

‘Activated’ Crispy Nuts Recipe 

4 cups of Nuts  

1 Tablespoon Sea salt 

Enough water to cover, preferably filtered or spring water. 

Put in a non-reactive bowl (stainless steel, glass or pottery), stir and leave in warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and dehydrate until completely dry and crisp. If you don’t have a dehydrator this can be done in a warm oven at approx 50°c to 65°c for 12 to 24 hours, make sure nuts are spread single layer on the tray for faster drying. Store dried nuts in an airtight container. 

Walnuts are best stored in the fridge due to their large amounts of linoleic acid which makes them more susceptible to rancidity. 

A point to note is that if you do use this method, the incredibly morish nuts do have a slight saltiness so if you make flour from them you might want to omit the salt from any recipe you bake with the flour. 

Dried activated walnuts

Back to the flour making. 

We hand cracked 500g of walnuts, the hammer and towel method would probably have been faster but needed to be inside to keep an eye on the pressure canner, multitasking!  This yielded 113g of flesh but they were not the best quality nuts and were not very plump. Good walnuts should give a much better yield. The nuts had been nicely dried and ground well in our manual grinder, producing a good walnut flour.  

Walnut Flour

I tried a keto butter biscuit recipe, which turned out well, but the bikkies didn’t hold their shape as well as the recipe made out they would. Though the original recipe used almond flour not walnut, generally you can mix and match nut flours, except coconut which absorbs a lot of moisture. The bikkies were quite tasty with just a touch of bitterness, which I don’t mind. 

Walnut bikkies

Walnuts do have a distinctive flavour which will affect the baked product, great in carrot cakes and as a walnut biscuit or bread. Nutrition wise walnuts have per 100g, approximately 14g carbs, 65g fat and 15g protein. This might alter a bit if the ‘activation’ method is used. 

For ease of processing and quality of flour, walnuts would have to be at the top of my list along with hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds. 

Walnut – Juglans regia

Fast growing deciduous tree reaching 15m plus. Seedling trees will produce edible nuts, but there will be natural variation between trees and they are generally considered to take longer to produce nuts than a grafted tree. Buying a grafted tree will give you an idea of the type of nut it will produce and the size of the grown tree. While they are a hardy tree walnuts do not like wet ground, so plant in free draining area. Any surplus nuts are great fodder or forage for livestock especially for fattening pigs. The timber is valued for making beautiful furniture.

Walnuts in their shell

Lessons from the garden

From the moment we are born, we begin to learn and to the day we die we are surrounded by opportunities to continue learning and growing. Often these learning experiences come from our immediate surroundings, if we chose to see them.

As I walk around our garden I observe and consider… so what has it taught me lately?

Firstly, to act on my thoughts. So, when I see the white cabbage butterflies flitting beautifully amongst the plants the thought ‘I should net the brassica seedlings’ enters my brain. DO IT. Don’t procrastinate because The Other Half just tidied the shed and packed all the nets away (that I had left in handy disarray) somewhere behind the quad bike. Don’t get distracted by some other job, because there are always other jobs. Go and get that fine netting, no not the green one the holes are too big, the white one that’s it. Drape it over the greenhouse door way and secure it well. Because if you don’t those beautiful fluttering bastardflies will lay their noxious little eggs, EVERYWHERE. And even if you brush off those minuscule balls of future caterpillars you will still get caterpillars…

The damage begins…

Then even if you search those poor little chewed brassicas and squish the green fleshy demon spawn there will be more next time you look! Growing fatter and hairier as those poor denuded future food crops languish under their voracious foraging. So, remember listen to your pop-up thoughts and act on them – unless it’s just snowflake rubbish, then ignore it.

Lesson number two. Don’t plant your Kamo Kamo anywhere near your cucumbers. Or for that matter anywhere near anything at all. In fact, I would say give them about 10 square metres all to themselves far away from any other garden. Then at least you will have other garden.

Also, when harvesting from said triffids wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves. Or even better send someone else to find them! We were harvesting tasty little cucs from the plants scrambling up the re-enforcing mesh frame, but then the Kamo Kamo came. Its trailing vine crept stealth like across the mulch, flowers popped their sunshine heads out from its leaves. But no fruit came forth. We had pumpkins growing round and fat, but no Kamo Kamo. So annoyed we turned our back on it, foolish mistake.

The kamokamo escapes…

Its trailing tendrils crept over the corn, which was fine, you know ‘Three sisters’ and all that, minus the beans that is. It was in said corn that we finally started harvesting its fruits and found the first mammoth beast weighing down the vine. Then it crept past the cucumbers frame and out towards the lawn. We tossed it back off the herb garden and started harvesting the cuc’s from the back of the rusty support.

Then somewhere, somehow it breeched the cuc frame. I don’t even know when or how, it was just suddenly there, smothering all asunder. The cuc’s suffered, sunlight obscured and flattened by the overbearing weight of bullying creeping fingers of prickly green.

That was lesson number two plant the damn Kamo Kamo far, far away.

Lesson number three. Jerusalem artichokes. “I think we got them all, no those ones will be fine over there” foolish naive person…

Fartichokes are the gift that just keeps on giving. Don’t get me wrong here, I think they are great. You can eat the tubers (we don’t, low carb household here) They have pretty little sunflower like flowers for the bees and are in fact related to the sunflower. You can feed the plants to your stock, or just let them clamber up the fences like feral goats and let the blighters help themselves to the once towering stems. Or feed the tubers to your pigs so we can all experience why they have the nickname fartichokes. Plus, they are a great carbon crop for your composts.

However, if you at any time should choose to repurpose that particular area of garden, they will repel your every effort to remove them. Kind of like oxalis but two metres tall. Then they will even magically appear in other parts of the garden, spreading their wonderful bounty across the land.

So, lesson number three don’t plant near, in or around any area where there has been fartichokes, unless you will remember to constantly remove little sprouty gifts.

Lesson number four. COVER THE SOIL. (and learn how to make real good compost, but that’s a whole other story) Now this is very important, hence the caps… if you want to grow food which enhances your life you need to enhance the life of the soil it grows in. Covering the soil is the first step, it stops the sun from baking it, just like a hat stops the sun baking your bald spot. It helps to keep the moisture in, like putting a lid on the pot to stop evaporation. Ya get that? Whether you cover it with woodchip mulch, straw, leaf litter or living plants, it provides protection and food for your underground livestock.

The mulched garden

You might need a microscope to see most of these little critters, but they are the lifeblood of your soil. Get these microorganisms in a prolific healthy state (this is where the REALLY GOOD living compost comes in) and your soil becomes a living, thriving farm under your feet. Hey you can even start calling yourself an underground farmer cause you know a healthy soil has apparently 100 billion microorganisms per handful of soil. Phew, that’s a high stocking rate. Bring the Soil Food Web (Google it!) back to life, be the spiderman hero for you garden, spinning the web of fungi.

Thats lesson number four and obviously the most important one here. Spread the organic love mulch throughout your garden, learn about and bring back the microorganisms, the fungal life and watch the magical invisible underground livestock do their thing!

Fungi sprouting in the mulch

Chestnut Flour.

There is a chestnut grove near us, apparently in all the years it has been producing it has never been harvested apart from some locals filling their buckets. Probably partly because of the time-consuming harvesting and their limited shelf-life, which is due to their high water content. This makes them more prone to growing mould or rotting that most other nuts, which have a higher fat content and are more likely to go rancid when old. Chestnuts in their shell will be good for up to a week and if stored in the fridge this can be extended up to a month. Chestnut flour should be used within a day or so or stored in the freezer for up to a year. Apparently chestnuts should be eaten cooked due to their high tannin content when raw. 

Early morning in the chestnut grove

Most chestnut peeling methods we investigated called for the nut shell to be scored either across the base or around the side before heating it to release the shell. Methods included microwaving (we haven’t owned one for at least 20 years) roasting or boiling. Roasting sounded good but I found that while the outer shell came away easy the inner skin dried out and was very hard to remove. Immersing them in boiling water for a couple of minutes helped some of the nuts inner skins peeled well, but for most it was a time-consuming tedious task. For this lot I started with 300g of fresh chestnuts roasted 15min, yielded 200g peeled nuts, then dehydrated ground flour 94g. I used the woodstove to dry them and may have over dried them a little. 

Chestnuts have a prickly outer husk with up to three nuts inside.

These same methods all said that the inner skin was bitter if left on and this seemed to be the only reason for removing it. Further research showed the skin would be non-digestible fibre, which is helpful in the intestines to keep things moving so not an issue there. Another method I saw from a local lady kept the skin on and blended the dried nut with skin into chestnut flour. This would save a lot of time and a few taste tests showed no noticeable bitterness in the skin. We chose to boil the next lot of chestnuts for about a recommended eight minutes to make peeling easier and tried different scoring methods. The nuts with the cross cut across the base, right through the shell and skin were the easiest to peel, a single cut on the base or side did not seem to let enough boiling water in to soften the shell enough. It is best to leave the chestnuts in the water, removing just a few at a time to peel as they are harder to peel if they dry out. We did find after peeling about 4kg of chestnuts that it was rather drying on your hands and when scoring them you need a sharp and comfortable knife if doing a lot. 

The nuts were then sliced and spread on dehydrator trays in a single layer and dried for a few hours, I decided not to fully dehydrate as the edges were getting hard and I did not want hard bits in the flour. Since the flour was to be frozen for storage the slight moisture content should be fine. 

For this lot we started with 1 kg fresh chestnuts, deshelled but still with skin we had 903g, these were partially dehydrated which gave us 648g to be ground into flour. One cup of chestnut flour equaled 120g. I used this flour in our Keto bread recipe and found it worked well, producing a slightly moister loaf than other nut flours. In the bikkie recipe I did notice that if the chestnut was not ground up well you did end up with some firmer lumps of the skin which were slightly bitter, but if ground finely this was not an issue.  The removal of thicker pieces of skin while peeling would mitigate this issue also.

Chestnut flour

Chestnuts are higher in carbohydrates than most other nuts, for each 100g of boiled chestnut they contain approximately 28g of carbohydrates, 1.4g of fat and 2g of protein. Hazelnuts, in comparison, are approximately 17g carbohydrates, 61g fat and 14g protein. Apparently, chestnuts retain more carbohydrates if roasted at about 50g per 100g serving. So, boiling must remove a large portion of the carbohydrates and is therefore a better method if you are low-carb. 

Over all I found chestnuts be rather labour intensive and have to be dealt with quite promptly after harvest unlike other nuts. But the flour is quite good with a mild flavour and can easily be frozen and used from the container for bread and baking.  

Keto bread with chestnut flour

Here’s some more information on chestnut trees…

Sweet Chestnut – Castanea sativa 

An attractive deciduous tree reaching approx. 30 metres in height. Preferring slightly acidic free draining soils and dislikes waterlogged, alkaline soils and exposed sites. Both male and female flowers appear in summer on the same stalk, these are wind and insect pollenated. The edible nuts develop in a prickly case that splits open in autumn when they are ripe. The nuts and leaves etc. can be used as stock fodder and all parts of the tree, except the actual nut, are said to have anthelmintic (anti worming) properties.  

Sweet Chestnut is a durable wood which coppices very well and can be coppiced at various ages for different purposes. At 5 years timber is used for walking sticks, yurt poles, garden stakes, woven panels, balustrades and rustic furniture.  At 7-12 years, rustic furniture, laths, pales, garden arches, gate hurdles, trellis panels and trug handles. 20 years, rustic furniture, laths, pales, charcoal, firewood, barrels, fencing posts. 30 + years, roundwood timber framing, post-and-rail fencing, fencing posts, decking, cladding, arbours, gates, shingles, window frames, charcoal and firewood. 

Sweet Chestnut

Food, Fodder & Forage – Off Grid Homestead

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