Normally when you say sunflower, most people will think of either the big beautiful yellow flowers or the perfect little black seeds that taste great roasted with salt.  But there is another aspect to the sunflower plant that most people have not heard of before: Sunflower Greens!  Bright, crunchy and green, they almost remind me of a cross between iceberg lettuce and cucumbers. Except these little greens are packed full of nutrients.
    Sunflower greens are rich in lecithin and chlorophyll, both of which are great for your health.  They are packed with vitamins, minerals and are almost 25 percent protein.  Sunflower greens can be used in salads, raw wraps, as soup toppings, in a sandwich or even juiced.

    I have never seen sunflower greens available in grocery stores near me, but I do know that in some places you can find them.  If, like me, you are not one of those lucky people, growing sunflower greens yourself is the only option.  It is really not difficult to grow them.  If you follow this step by step guide I promise you can grow your own in a sunny spot in your kitchen or home.

How to Grow Sunflower Greens

STEP 1:  Preparing a little greenhouse/garden bed

  1. Purchase some whole sunflower seeds that are meant for human consumption (Not the kind you feed the birds with).  I order my seeds from the Sprout People, but I am sure there are other places you can find them as well.
  2. Save one of those white plastic food containers with clear plastic tops that you get from ordering take-out food and poke a few holes in the bottom with scissors or a pen (If you don't order take-out then you could always use a regular plant pot that has drainage).  Save the plastic top to use as a cover while the seeds are under the soil and then you can use the top as a drip tray as they start to grow bigger.  (As you can see below I saved two of the clear plastic tops so I could have a top and a drip tray at the same time - We order a lot of Thai take-out because bringing a 3 year old and a 1 year old to a restaurant is just not fun!)
  3. Get organic potting soil and fill the plastic tray up to the rim (or about 3/4 full).  Now you have a little greenhouse/garden bed all set up for your seeds.

NOTE:  The tray that I am using below is 7''L x 4''W x 2''H.

           STEP 2:  Sprouting the Sunflower Seeds

For the size tray that I use, I will sprout about 1/4 cup of seeds.  If you are using a larger tray then you will need to increase the amount.

  1. Clean the sunflower seeds by rinsing them under cool water and cull through them to make sure there are no sticks or rocks (it happens sometimes).
  2. Place the clean seeds in a jar, bowl, or cup and add enough water to cover the seeds completely.  The seeds will float so to keep them all underwater place another cup or bowl over the top of them.  Leave them to soak for 8-12 hours or overnight.
  3. Next you need to spread the seeds out into a sprouter (this is the one I own) or you could even make your own by using another plastic take-out tray with holes in it.  It just needs to be something with good drainage.  (A colander would even work)
  4. Twice a day you need to rinse the seeds with cool water.  Let the water drain off completely and set the container out on the counter. (The idea is to keep them moist without being submerged in water)
  5. Continue to rinse your seeds twice a day (for normally about 2-3 days) or until the seeds start to sprout little white tails as seen in the picture to the left.

STEP 3:  Plant Your Sprouts
  1. Using a mister or spray bottle, moisten the dirt inside your greenhouse/garden bed quite thoroughly.
  2. Take your sprouted sunflower seeds and lay them out in a single layer (they can be overlapping a little) on the moist soil.  You want to keep them snug together because they will grow better.  
  3. Place the plastic top on to keep the moisture in, and move the greenhouse/garden bed to a warm spot out of direct sunlight.
  4. Once or twice a day, if the dirt or sprouts seem to look dry, give them some water (I like to use the spray bottle).  You want to keep them moist, but not soaking. 
  5. Once your greens start to open and push up like the picture below you can remove the plastic lid and move the greenhouse/garden bed to a nice warm and sunny spot and water daily, always making sure the soil is moist.
  6. The greens will grow and continue to stretch their leaves, always following the sunlight so you may need to give the greenhouse/garden bed a turn around every once and a while to keep them growing straight. 
  7. Another thing you will notice is that sometimes the seeds will stick to the leaves, you can just gently pull or pop them off.  (I find this task useful for relieving my occasional OCD ;)
STEP 4:  Harvesting your Sunflower Greens
  1. To harvest your sunflower greens all you need a pair of scissors or small garden sheers.  For optimal taste it is best to harvest the leaves before their second set or "true leaves" begin to sprout.  In the picture below you can see how these greens are a little past where they should be, because you can see their second set of leaves.  They will still taste fine, but try to grab them before this happens.  
  2. You can store your cut greens in the refrigerator (they will last quite a while).  
  3. Then just dump out the roots (I put mine in the compost bin) and start again.
And there you have it!  It's not as hard as all the steps might suggest.  Sunflower greens are in my opinion the easiest of the micro-greens/sprouts to grow.  It is even a fun project that you could do with your children.  The whole process takes only a few days so they can quickly see how a seed becomes a plant...a cool plant that they can eat!


02/11/2013 5:27pm

Sandra! These pictures are absolutely gorgeous!!! I really enjoyed reading this step by step guide. I'm definitely doing this. Thanks!

02/11/2013 6:53pm

Thanks Emilie :) Happy Growing!!!

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02/13/2013 10:00am

I can't wait to start this project at home. Thanks for the awesome step-by-step guide! I'll be sure to let you know how it goes :)

02/14/2013 9:35am

Definitely let us know Chris, I can't wait to hear how you will use them!

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02/14/2013 3:56am

While I love traditional gardening, I love the speed of growing microgreens - sunflower sprouts would have to be one of my favourites! There's a bulk nut shop near my house and they always give me a funny look when I buy a kilo bag every now and then.

Lovely how-to guide, now I'm going to go eat some sprouts with cottage cheese and sliced radish :D

02/14/2013 9:32am

Oh...yum...sprouts with cottage cheese and radish sounds really good!

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02/14/2013 6:19pm

I love microgreens but I never eat or grow sunflower . What a great idea! Your shots are amazing.

02/14/2013 6:25pm

Thanks Zoka!! Sunflower greens are super easy and they taste great. You should give it a try.

02/19/2013 8:27pm

Yay! I love sunflower sprouts. Thank you for the beautiful tutorial.

02/19/2013 8:43pm

Thanks for the comment "Veggie Wedgie" (I'm having fun looking through all your beautiful recipes on your website)

03/12/2013 12:53am

Do you know if they have to be still in shells or can they be shelled? I might try to see, as I just bought a whole bag of shelled at the health food store (where a container of sunflower sprouts is almost $5!)

03/12/2013 10:41am

Hi Brooke, you can definitely sprout sunflower greens without the shells, which is actually easier. BUT the seeds that you got might not be "alive" When you buy sunflower seeds from the store even if they are labeled Raw they will probably not sprout. You have to buy sprouting seeds from a supplier that sells them for just that. Try your seeds, but if they don't sprout tails in 2-3 days then they are not the right type of seeds. Good Luck!!! -Sandra

03/17/2013 2:31pm

Guess what!!! I have sprouts! I only did a few at first - just in case - but they are def sprouting lil tails! They are raw seeds, of course, not roasted or any funny stuff, but nothing special otherwise! :)

09/03/2013 8:40am

I buy raw organic sunflower seeds that sprout fine, from a bulk section of an overpriced major US "health food" store. The bulk section has OK prices. Google and Youtube show how to grow sunflower sprouts and greens without soil. Consider what container you grow in, food grade plastic #2 is said to be the safest plastic.

03/17/2013 5:35pm

Hey Brooke,

Awesome find with those seeds!!!! It's a great thing that you you can do the same thing with a larger amount and lay them on top of dirt once they sprout and you'll be on your way!!!

Thanks so much for giving us an update...just goes to show that you never know until you try right ;) -Sandra

06/21/2013 8:34pm

is there any reason you can't just use water to sprout?

06/21/2013 9:03pm

Hi Robin, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "just water"?

Sprouts grow in a tray and get rinsed twice a day, but with micro greens you need to put them in some sort of medium so they grow up straight. You can't grow sunflower greens like sprouts because the root are too long and they would probably choke out each other and get tangled into a big ball.

06/22/2013 4:17pm

This may be a silly question but at the step where you put them on top of your soil are you covering them or just laying them on top?
Thank You :)

06/23/2013 12:09am

Hi Michele, Not a silly question at don't need to cover them with soil. (you can but if you do then when they grow they will be covered in dirt and require extra washing) So it is just easier not to cover them!!!

07/10/2013 1:09pm

Will be trying this as it sounds ace and yummy, and my pet rats will love it for a treat to

01/13/2014 8:50am

from the last picture, you can grow the sprout directly in a wooden crate? or the sprouts were moved into the crate growing completely? Thanks!

01/13/2014 12:04pm

The greens in the wooden crate were put there after they were already grown...I did that just for the picture opportunity. BUT...You can really grow them anywhere as long as it holds dirt.

01/24/2014 1:15pm

Could you just eat them as sprouted seeds, ie, leave them just in water for a few more days?

01/24/2014 2:07pm

You could definitely just eat them as sprouts. I would probably try to get the seeds that are shelled if you want to eat them that way, because the shells don't taste good after being soaked like that.

Some places will sell the shelled seeds for sprouting purposes. I have never tried them like that but I bet they are delicious.

02/21/2014 4:42pm

Thanks so much for the tutorial and those pictures are beautiful! I soaked my seeds for like a day maybe 2 but they didn't sprout. I planted them I hope they grow and look as beautiful as yours!

02/24/2014 9:32am

How many times can you use the same soil after clearing the roots and starting again?

02/24/2014 5:05pm

It depends on how much soil you use. I normally only use a very small amount and the roots take over all of it. You could technically squeeze the root mass to collect the dirt but I find it is just easier to use a small amount and just compost the whole thing when I am finished cutting. I buy big bags of organic starter soil at walmart and it lasts me a whole year.

I do believe you could also grow these greens without dirt. Commercial growers normally use mats, which you can buy, but again I believe they are only a one time use and more expensive then the dirt.

08/05/2014 9:01pm

Are mature leaves healthy also? I eat them but can't find any nutritional information on them

08/16/2014 6:04pm

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I have never seen sunflower greens available in grocery stores near me, but I do know that in some places you can find them.

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06/19/2015 3:29am

I'm curious why you recommend not to use sunflower seeds sold as birdseed? If the sprouts grow out from the shell, and only the green is harvested, what is the danger? Please let me know. Thanks!


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