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.
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.